You Will Know That Despite Being HIV Positive You Are Not Alone: Qualitative Study to Inform Content of a Text Messaging Intervention to Improve Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 Jul 19;6(7):e10671. doi: 10.2196/10671.


Background: Prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) relies on long-term adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Mobile health approaches, such as text messaging (short message service, SMS), may improve adherence in some clinical contexts, but it is unclear what SMS content is desired to improve PMTCT-ART adherence.

Objective: We aimed to explore the SMS content preferences related to engagement in PMTCT care among women, male partners, and health care workers. The message content was used to inform an ongoing randomized trial to enhance the PMTCT-ART adherence.

Methods: We conducted 10 focus group discussions with 87 HIV-infected pregnant or postpartum women and semistructured individual interviews with 15 male partners of HIV-infected women and 30 health care workers from HIV and maternal child health clinics in Kenya. All interviews were recorded, translated, and transcribed. We analyzed transcripts using deductive and inductive approaches to characterize women's, partners', and health care workers' perceptions of text message content.

Results: All women and male partners, and most health care workers viewed text messages as a useful strategy to improve engagement in PMTCT care. Women desired messages spanning 3 distinct content domains: (1) educational messages on PMTCT and maternal child health, (2) reminder messages regarding clinic visits and adherence, and (3) encouraging messages that provide emotional support. While all groups valued reminder and educational messages, women highlighted emotional support more than the other groups (partners or health care workers). In addition, women felt that encouraging messages would assist with acceptance of their HIV status, support disclosure, improve patient-provider relationship, and provide support for HIV-related challenges. All 3 groups valued not only messages to support PMTCT or HIV care but also messages that addressed general maternal child health topics, stressing that both HIV- and maternal child health-related messages should be part of an SMS system for PMTCT.

Conclusions: Women, male partners, and health care workers endorsed SMS text messaging as a strategy to improve PMTCT and maternal child health outcomes. Our results highlight the specific ways in which text messaging can encourage and support HIV-infected women in PMTCT to remain in care, adhere to treatment, and care for themselves and their children.

Trial registration: NCT02400671; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: ART; HIV; PMTCT; SMS text messaging; adherence; retention.

Associated data