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Weekly Automated Text Messages Influence Kenyan Women To Get Tested For HIV

By Elyse Desmarais on May 31, 2016

Wednesday Roundup

The Healthcare industry is becoming increasingly interested in using text message communications to revolutionize it’s practice and change the way patients’ receive care. With text messaging becoming a more and more popular form of communication, it only makes sense for doctors to be interested in using this medium to transform the way they communicate with patients.

Over the past few years, researchers have considered using text messaging as a reminder tool to improve participation in flu vaccinations and breast cancer screenings. More recently, researchers have utilized SMS message reminders for HIV testing among women living in rural Africa.

In an article published by Stephanie Castillo of Medical Daily, the details of the study run by Dr.Njambi Njugana of Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya were outlined. According to Castillo, researchers recruited 600 women from the ages of 18-24 from four colleges in rural Kenya into their study. Of these women, half received weekly automated text messages about pregnancy, contraception, STDs, and HIV testing; while the other half received none. Both groups were surveyed monthly about their HIV testing status.

Six months after receiving the last text message, two thirds of the women from the text messaging group had been HIV tested, while only half from the control group had gotten tested. Dr. Njugana explained:

“Text messages in Kenya translate to a lot of people… .[Overall], we had a more than 90 % response rate, with women often responding through text.”

Castillo went on to explain why text messaging, instead of email or phone calls, was the preferred contact method.

“…83 percent of Kenyans use mobile phones. And in a global survey from the Pew Research Center, investigators found 78 percent of mobile phone owners in emerging countries used their devices for texting. In 14 of 24 surveyed nations, it was especially common among 18 to 29 year olds — the ages of those most at risk in Kenya.”

These high percentages, along with the success of Dr.Njugana’s research, prove text messaging is becoming an effective way to communicate healthcare information with at risk and hard to reach audiences. Castillo reports this study is only the first phase of a larger project planned by Grand Challenges Canada, an organization funded by the Canadian government, which plans to continue HIV prevention efforts.

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