Provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling (PITC) is internationally recommended for tuberculosis (TB) patients, but the feasibility, effectiveness, and impact of this policy on the TB programme in India are unknown. We evaluated PITC of TB patients across two districts in India considered to have generalized HIV epidemics, Tiruchirappalli (population 2.5 million) and Mysore (population 2.8 million).
Starting June 2007, healthcare providers in both districts were instructed to ascertain HIV status for all TB patients, and refer those with unknown HIV status to the nearest Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC)—often in the same facility—for counselling and voluntary HIV testing. All TB patients registered from June 2007 to March 2008 were followed prospectively. Field investigators assessed PITC practices and abstracted data from routine TB programme records and HIV counselling registers to determine the proportion of TB patients appropriately evaluated for HIV infection. Patient records were traced to determine the efficiency of referral links to HIV care and antiretroviral treatment (ART). Between July 2007 and March 2008, 5299 TB patients were registered in both study districts. Of the 4701 with unknown HIV status at the time of TB treatment initiation, 3368 (72%) were referred to an ICTC, and 3111 (66%) were newly tested for HIV. PITC implementation resulted in the ascertainment of HIV status for 3709/5299 (70%) of TB patients, and detected 200 cases with previously undiagnosed HIV infection. Overall, 468 (8.8%) of all registered TB patients were HIV-infected; 177 (37%) were documented to have also received any ART.
With implementation of PITC in India, HIV status was successfully ascertained for 70% of TB patients. Previously undiagnosed HIV-infection was detected in 6.4% of those TB patients newly tested, enabling referral for life-saving anti-retroviral treatment. ART uptake, however, was poor, suggesting that PITC implementation should include measures to strengthen and support ART referral, evaluation, and initiation.