In order to evaluate alternative tests and strategies to simplify pediatric human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening at the district hospital level, a cross-sectional exploratory study was organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Venous and capillary phlebotomies were performed on 941 Congolese children, aged 1 month to 12 years (153 children under 18 months and 788 children more than 18 months old). The HIV prevalence rate was 4.7%. An algorithm for children more than 18 months old, using serial rapid tests (Determine, InstantScreen, and Uni-Gold) performed on capillary blood stored in EDTA tubes, had a sensitivity of 100.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 88.9 to 100.0%) and a specificity of 100.0% (95% CI, 99.5 to 100.0%). The results of this study suggest that the ultrasensitive p24 antigen assay may be performed on capillary plasma stored on filter paper (sensitivity and specificity, 100.0%; n=87) instead of venous plasma (sensitivity, 92.3%; specificity, 100.0%; n=150). The use of glucolets (instruments used to perform capillary phlebotomies), instead of syringes and needles, may reduce procedural pain and the risk of needle stick injuries at a comparable cost. Compared to the reference, HIV could have been correctly excluded based on one rapid test for at least 90% of these children. The results of this study point towards underutilized opportunities to simplify phlebotomy and pediatric HIV screening.
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