Cell phone short messaging service (SMS) for HIV/AIDS in South Africa: a literature review

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2010;160(Pt 1):530-4.


The HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of the most serious threats to global health. HIV/AIDS is a chronic illness, requiring patient empowerment to enhance adherence to treatment regimes if it is to be managed effectively. While healthcare costs are rising, people still have expectations of high-quality care. This literature review-based study explored the use of cell phone (mobile phone) short messaging services (SMS) in health care, in particular for HIV/AIDS in South Africa. From an initial corpus of 212 papers, 28 were reviewed. The main findings include that SMS can improve service delivery through appointment reminders and improve communication between healthcare workers. It improves diagnosis, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation by supporting adherence to medication, and monitoring illness and medical interventions. SMS is useful in public health programmes, such as contact tracing and partner notification, therefore playing an important role in control of HIV/AIDS. As South Africa has one of the highest uptakes and demographic distributions of cellular technology in the world, SMS is feasible as a tool to deliver quality health care with low cost.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electronic Mail / statistics & numerical data*
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • South Africa / epidemiology