Exploring the relative costs of contact tracing for increasing HIV case finding in sub-saharan countries

Benjamin Armbruster, Stéphane Helleringer, Linda Kalilani-Phiri, James Mkandawire, Hans Peter Kohler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Contact tracing (CT) has rarely been used to improve HIV case finding in sub-Saharan Africa because of concerns regarding privacy protection and possibly high costs. Methods: We estimate the relative cost of identifying an undiagnosed HIV infection through CT compared with client-initiated voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and door-to-door provider-initiated testing (PIT). We used data from the Likoma Network Study, a study of sexual networks and HIV infection conducted on the small island of Likoma in northern Malawi, to inform these calculations. Results: In Likoma, the probability that partners of HIV index cases could be traced and that they would consent to HIV testing and counseling was high and varied by partner type. HIV prevalence ranged from 48.1% to 66.7% among the partners who were tested. Per newly diagnosed infection, CT is rarely a cheaper case finding approach than VCT in populations with HIV prevalence > 5%. In populations with HIV prevalence < 5%, CT is an attractive case-finding approach relative to VCT when few HIV-infected individuals are aware of their status. Compared with door-to-door PIT, CT is almost always preferred when the population prevalence is below 10%, unless CT costs are prohibitively high. When HIV prevalence is >10%, providing CT for current spouses of index cases remains an attractive approach to HIV case finding. Conclusions: CT could complement client-initiated VCT or door-to-door PIT in a large number of sub-Saharan populations affected by generalized epidemics of varying magnitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e29-e36
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


  • HIV prevention
  • HIV testing
  • Malawi
  • contact tracing
  • cost analysis
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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