Project Lead(s): Njambi Njuguna
In Kenya, 1.4 million adults are infected with HIV, 65% of all new HIV infections occur before 34 years of age and are more common in women than men.
Despite being at increased risk of HIV acquisition, many young women do not consider themselves to be at high risk for HIV infection and are not tested.
A quasi-experimental study of women attending two-year technical training schools in Kenya was undertaken to determine if sending weekly sexual and reproductive health text messages (SMS) could increase HIV testing and reduce risky behaviour.
The intent was also to assess whether it was feasible to collect information about sexual behaviour and practices via SMS.
The study involved 600 young women 18–24 years old, enrolled in four mid-level colleges.
Half of the women were assigned to receive weekly sexual and reproductive health messages related to HIV (intervention group), while the other half did not receive these messages (control).
The SMS survey included questions on participants’ sexual activity, HIV testing habits, HIV risk perception, pregnancy incidence and condom use.
The study had up to a 91% response rate over the six months of the study.
The results showed that it was feasible to collect data on HIV testing, sexual behaviour and sexual practices from young women via SMS. Results also showed that sending weekly text messages increased reported HIV testing.
A total of 356 women reported testing for HIV within the six months of follow-up: 67% were among the intervention arm versus 51% in the control group.
Data are still being evaluated to determine if the text messaging campaign had an impact on reducing high-risk behaviours.
There are plans to expand the project in a gradual manner, starting off with more colleges within the region and spreading out in a concentric manner to include surrounding counties.
Results of this study have been presented at conferences, including the 20th International AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia, the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2015) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and have been accepted for publication by the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Journal.