Multi-assay algorithms (MAAs) can be used to estimate HIV incidence in cross-sectional surveys. We compared the performance of two MAAs that use HIV diversity as one of four biomarkers for analysis of HIV incidence.
Both MAAs included two serologic assays (LAg-Avidity assay and BioRad-Avidity assay), HIV viral load, and an HIV diversity assay. HIV diversity was quantified using either a high resolution melting (HRM) diversity assay that does not require HIV sequencing (HRM score for a 239 base pair env region) or sequence ambiguity (the percentage of ambiguous bases in a 1,302 base pair pol region). Samples were classified as MAA positive (likely from individuals with recent HIV infection) if they met the criteria for all of the assays in the MAA. The following performance characteristics were assessed: (1) the proportion of samples classified as MAA positive as a function of duration of infection, (2) the mean window period, (3) the shadow (the time period before sample collection that is being assessed by the MAA), and (4) the accuracy of cross-sectional incidence estimates for three cohort studies.
The proportion of samples classified as MAA positive as a function of duration of infection was nearly identical for the two MAAs. The mean window period was 141 days for the HRM-based MAA and 131 days for the sequence ambiguity-based MAA. The shadows for both MAAs were <1 year. Both MAAs provided cross-sectional HIV incidence estimates that were very similar to longitudinal incidence estimates based on HIV seroconversion.
MAAs that include the LAg-Avidity assay, the BioRad-Avidity assay, HIV viral load, and HIV diversity can provide accurate HIV incidence estimates. Sequence ambiguity measures obtained using a commercially-available HIV genotyping system can be used as an alternative to HRM scores in MAAs for cross-sectional HIV incidence estimation.