Effect of universal HIV testing and treatment on socioeconomic wellbeing in rural Kenya and Uganda: a cluster-randomised controlled trial

Elsevier, The Lancet Global Health, Volume 10, January 2022
Jakubowski A., Kabami J., Balzer L.B., Ayieko J., Charlebois E.D., Owaraganise A. et al.

Background: Universal testing and treatment for HIV has shown promise as an approach to reduce mortality and lower HIV incidence. Evidence on the economic effects of this approach on individuals and households in low-resource settings is scarce. We aimed to examine the effect of universal HIV testing and treatment on a range of economic outcomes. Methods: We collected data in household surveys done over a 3-year period in a sample of HIV-positive and HIV-negative adults participating in a cluster-randomised trial of universal HIV testing and treatment in 32 rural communities in Kenya and Uganda. Communities of approximately 10 000 people were pair-matched on the basis of geographical and population characteristics, with the best-matching 16 pairs randomly assigned (1:1) to intervention or control groups. Participants in intervention communities received annual HIV and multidisease testing, universal antiretroviral therapy (ART) eligibility, and patient-centred care. Participants in control communities received baseline testing and medical care according to national guidelines. We analysed employment and health-care utilisation outcomes for working-age adults (age 18–65 years) and education outcomes for school-age children (6–17 years) using data from 3 years after the intervention. This trial is now complete, and is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01864603. Findings: Between July 9, 2013, and June 15, 2017, we collected survey data on 8198 working-age adults and 6755 school-age children. Compared with adults living with HIV in control communities, adults living with HIV in intervention communities were more likely to be employed (difference 9·7% [95% CI 2·1 to 18·3]), less likely to seek health care (–10·3% [–22·0 to 0·1]), and less likely to spend money on health care (–12·7% [–22·4 to 0·6]) 3 years after the intervention. We found no significant differences in outcomes between HIV-negative adults in intervention and control communities. Among children in households with HIV-positive adults, the intervention led to a 7·3% (95% CI 1·0 to 15·1) increase in primary school completion after 3 years in intervention communities compared with control communities. Interpretation: Universal HIV testing and treatment improved employment outcomes and other indicators of socioeconomic wellbeing for HIV-positive adults and children in their households, but had no effect on HIV-negative adults. Our findings suggest that the considerable investments needed to expand ART access might have substantial short-term and long-term economic returns. Funding: National Institutes of Health.