Assays that detect p24 antigen reduce the diagnostic window period of HIV testing. Most point-of-care HIV assays have poor sensitivity to diagnose acute HIV infection as they only detect antibodies against
HIV-1 and HIV-2 (HIV-1/2). This was a cross-sectional laboratory-based study that evaluated the performance of the DetermineTM HIV-1/2 Ag/Ab Combo fourth generation rapid strip – currently the only rapid assay that detects both HIV-1/2 antibodies and p24 antigen. A total of 79 serum specimens (29 positive for HIV antibodies only, 14 positive for HIV antibodies and p24 antigen, 20 HIV-negative, and 16 positive for p24 antigen only) were used for the evaluation. Results were compared with those from validated fourth generation HIV ELISAs. The DetermineTM Combo rapid strips had a sensitivity of 90.7% and a specificity of 100% for the detection of HIV-1/2 antibodies. Its sensitivity for the detection of p24 antigen was only 10% (3 out of 30 p24 antigen positive specimens). This implies that most acute HIV infections will be missed with this assay. The need for a point-of-care assay which can detect acute HIV
infection reliably still remains, particularly for use in a high prevalence setting such as South Africa.