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Cell Phone Messaging Improves HIV Treatment in Kenya

Last Updated: November 10, 2010.

Cell phone text messages sent to patients starting antiretroviral therapy can improve medication adherence and increase the proportion of patients achieving viral load suppression, according to research published online Nov. 9 in The Lancet.

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Cell phone text messages sent to patients starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) can improve medication adherence and increase the proportion of patients achieving viral load suppression, according to research published online Nov. 9 in The Lancet.

Richard T. Lester, M.D., of the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and colleagues conducted a study to determine if cell phone communication between health care workers and patients starting ART in Kenya improved adherence to HIV medications and suppression of plasma HIV-1 RNA load. Patients were randomized to the text message intervention or standard care. The primary outcomes were ART adherence (more than 95 percent of prescribed doses in the past 30 days at both six and 12 month follow-up visits) and plasma HIV-1 viral RNA load suppression (fewer than 400 copies per mL) at 12 months.

The researchers found that the relative risk for non-adherence to ART was 0.81 for patients in the cell phone intervention group compared to the control group. Suppressed viral loads were reported more frequently in the cell phone group than in the control group (relative risk for virologic failure, 0.84).

"Although the uptake of wireless telecommunication devices is becoming ubiquitous, introduction of mobile health initiatives is variable. We believe that the patient-centered communication effect, in particular the timely support of a patient by a health professional, is universal and can be improved by mobile telecommunication," the authors write.

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