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Title: The effect of weekly interactive text-messaging on early infant HIV testing in Kenya: a randomised controlled trial (WelTel PMTCT)
Authors: Nordberg, Bjorn
Mwangi, Winfred
Van der Kop, Mia Liisa
Were, Edwin
Kaguiri, Eunice
Keywords: Mother-to-child transmission
HIV testing
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Scientific reports
Abstract: Mother-to-child transmission of HIV remains a significant concern in Africa despite earlier progress. Early infant diagnosis (EID) of HIV is crucial to reduce mortality among infected infants through early treatment initiation. However, a large proportion of HIV-exposed infants are still not tested in Kenya. Our objective was to investigate whether weekly interactive text-messages improved prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV care outcomes including EID HIV testing. This multicentre, parallel-group, randomised, open-label trial included six antenatal care clinics across western Kenya. Pregnant women living with HIV, aged 18 years or older, with mobile phone access, were randomised in a 1:1 ratio to weekly text messages that continued until 24 months postpartum, asking “How are you?” (“Mambo?”) to which they were asked to respond within 48 h, or a control group. Healthcare workers contacted participants reporting problems and non-responders by phone. Participants in both groups received routine PMTCT care. The prespecified secondary outcome reported in this paper is EID HIV testing by eight weeks of age (blinded outcome assessment). Final 24-months trial results will be published separately. We estimated risk ratios using Poisson regression with robust standard errors. Between June 2015–July 2016, we screened 735 pregnant women, of whom 600 were enrolled: 299 were allocated to the intervention and 301 to the control group. By eight weeks of age, the uptake of EID HIV testing out of recorded live births was 85.5% in the intervention and 84.7% in the control group (71.2% vs. 71.8% of participants randomised, including miscarriages, stillbirths, etc.). The intention-to-treat risk ratio was 0.99; 95% CI: 0.90–1.10; p = 0.89. The proportion of infants diagnosed with HIV was 0.8% in the intervention and 1.2% in the control group. No adverse events were reported. We found no evidence to support that the WelTel intervention improved EID HIV testing. A higher uptake of EID testing than expected in both groups may be a result of lower barriers to EID testing and improved PMTCT care in western Kenya, including the broader standard use of mobile phone communication between healthcare workers and patients. (ISRCTN No. 98818734. Funded by the European-Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership and others).
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