Opt-out universal HCV and HIV screening in a Canadian emergency room: a cross-sectional study

OBJECTIVES To determine the prevalence of undiagnosed hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV cases in a population sample tested in the emergency room (ER) and to evaluate linkage-to-care.
SETTING Canadian university hospital.
PARTICIPANTS Adults born after 1945 who consulted at ER for any condition and on any shift were included. Patients unable to opt-out were excluded.
INTERVENTIONS ER nurse confirmed patients' eligibility and provided them with the option to opt-out. A physician met patients with a new diagnosis. Linkage-to-care was assessed 3 months postdiagnosis. Patients newly diagnosed with HCV were considered linked if they had an HCV RNA test, genotype, liver fibrosis evaluation, and if indicated, treatment prescription. Patients newly diagnosed with HIV were considered linked to care if they had an HIV serology confirmation test, viral load, CD4 cell count and started antiretroviral therapy.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES Primary objective: to determine the prevalence (overall and undiagnosed cases) of HIV and HCV among the patients who consult the ER. Secondary objectives: to determine the proportion of patients who opt-out, assess the adherence of emergency staff to the offer of testing, determine the proportion of patients linked to care at 3 months.
RESULTS Among 6350 eligible patients informed of the screening programme, 62.1% of patients were tested for at least one virus (HIV: 3905; HCV: 3910). 25% patients opted-out, 12% were not tested for organisational reasons, 0.3% (18) patients were HCV-HIV coinfected. Overall prevalence of HCV and HIV cases were 1.9% and 1.2%, respectively. Prevalence of new cases was 0.23% (95% CI 0.12% 0.45%) for HCV and 0.05% (95% CI 0.01% to 0.20%) for HIV. Among the new cases, only two HCV-infected and one HIV-infected patients were linked-to-care 3 months postdiagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS Identification of new cases of HCV and HIV through universal screening at the ER and linkage-to-care were both low.

as reported in: BMJ Open. 2022 Jan 18; 12(1): e048748