August 1, 2012
A program that sends daily text message medication reminders to around 400 HIV patients in Kampala's suburbs is part of a broad effort to utilize mobile technology in Uganda's fight against AIDS.
Twice-daily antiretrovirals require a minimum adherence rate of about 95 percent to be of greatest benefit to HIV/AIDS patients. Samuel Guma, director of the Kawempe Home Care clinic running the text reminder program, said participants' adherence rose from 75 percent to over 90 percent. "We saw that because of the mobile messaging there was a really tremendous improvement in adherence," he said.
Bas Hoefman runs the Dutch non-governmental organization Text to Change, which collaborated on the Kawempe program. "There was a fatigue for people receiving the old messages via traditional media -- mobile phones are now so commonly used, especially among the youth, that we realized it was time to repackage the information," Hoefman said.
In Uganda, mobile phones are used for everyday tasks like paying bills and sending money to rural relatives. Forty percent of the country's population subscribe to a mobile phone service.
Text to Change has reached approximately 1 million Ugandans with HIV messages, including those related to medication, prevention, and testing. It has expanded to run more than 30 similar projects across Africa, including an effort promoting medical male circumcision in neighboring Tanzania.