Original Research

Acceptability of short text messages to support treatment adherence among adolescents living with HIV in a rural and urban clinic in KwaZulu-Natal

Mthokozisi A. Cele, Moherndran Archary
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 20, No 1 | a976 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v20i1.976 | © 2019 Mthokozisi A. Cele, Moherndran Archary | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 March 2019 | Published: 03 October 2019

About the author(s)

Mthokozisi A. Cele, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Moherndran Archary, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The use of mobile communication technologies (mHealth) has improved adherence and viral suppression among HIV-infected adults. Adolescents have disproportionally lower levels of adherence and viral suppression compared with adults, potentially impacting the goal of 90% viral suppression by 2030.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the acceptability of using short message service (SMS)-based mHealth interventions as a tool to improve adherence in HIV-infected adolescents in a rural and urban clinic in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Method: A cross-sectional study with a sample size of 100 participants was conducted in a rural and urban clinic in KZN, from January 2018 to June 2019. Fifty participants were sequentially enrolled from each clinic. A questionnaire was self-administered with the assistance of the treating clinician depending on the adolescent’s level of understanding. Informed consent was obtained from guardians and questionnaires were anonymised. Appropriate descriptive and comparative statistics were used.

Results: The mean age of participants was 15 years, with 88% having access to a mobile device (MOD). There was no significant difference in MOD ownership between rural and urban participants. Majority of participants (65%) were willing to receive SMS-based adherence support with no difference between rural and urban area.

Conclusion: With high rates of MOD ownership and acceptability (willingness to use mHealth to improve health status), SMS-based mHealth interventions have the potential to improve adherence and viral suppression in adolescents living with HIV in both rural and urban KZN. Further studies with a larger sample size need to be conducted to further explore these findings.


Keywords

adolescents on antiretroviral therapy; HIV; text messaging system; adherence support; retention cell phone technology; mHealth

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