Originally published: November 10, 2010
Last updated: November 10, 2010 - 3:54pm
Kenyans with HIV who received a weekly text message checking in were 12% more likely than a control group to have undetectable levels of the HIV virus one year after starting antiretroviral treatment.
Even though the texts didn't explicitly encourage them to follow their drug regimen, the weekly check-in -- which participants reported made them feel "like someone cares" -- apparently was enough to significantly boost adherence to the regimen.
Antiretroviral treatment "requires patients to take their medication very consistently to ensure the virus stays dormant and to prevent the person from developing resistance to the drugs," Dr. Richard Lester, the University of British Columbia researcher who led the study, said. A dormant virus, naturally, leads to a better prognosis -- and also reduces transmission rates. Lester's study was the first randomized trial of its kind. "Considering the ubiquity of mobile phones and the minimal expense in sending text messages, this practice can be an extremely cost-effective way of improving outcomes for HIV patients," said Lester.
The study comes at a time when mobile carriers are expanding service in Africa.
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