Effectiveness of text messaging interventions on prevention, detection, treatment, and knowledge outcomes for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/HIV: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Syst Rev. 2019 Jan 8;8(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s13643-018-0921-4.


Background: Rates of STIs continue to rise worldwide, and novel evidence-based interventions such as text messaging aimed at improving client services are needed. We conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate text messaging to support STI/HIV prevention and treatment interventions.

Methods: We included articles that reported findings from randomized controlled trials (RTCs) involving adults and youth who were at risk of acquiring (or who currently had) a STI and/or HIV, a text message and comparator intervention, and reported provided outcome data on adherence to STI/HIV treatments. Articles were excluded if they were not published in English. We only included studies that have full-text publications so certainty and risk of bias assessments could be performed. Eight databases were searched to retrieve articles published between 1996 and March 2017. The Cochrane risk of bias tool was used and certainty of the evidence was assessed using GRADE. Effect estimates were pooled using a random effects model.

Results: A total of 35 RCTs were found, 6 of which were considered at low risk of bias. Eight studies found an increased association using text messaging in appointments attended compared to standard care (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.28 to 2.10). Participants receiving text messages had an increase in HIV testing compared to standard care (n = 6; OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.39 to 2.15). Ten text messaging RCTs measuring adherence using micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) pill counts has a non-significant association (OR 1.17, 95% CI 0.95-1.45) while five studies measuring adherence by self-report was found to be significant (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.28-2.11).

Conclusions: The effectiveness of text message interventions is equivocal. While text messaging has the potential to enhance the delivery of STI/HIV interventions, program planners are encouraged to evaluate any SMS intervention to ensure it is achieving the desired result.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42013006503.

Keywords: Delivery of health care; Evidence-based medicine; Meta-analysis; Sexually transmitted diseases; Text messaging.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Text Messaging*