04 September 2018
Most people living with HIV (PLWH) reside in middle- and low-income countries with limited access to health services. Thus, cost-effective interventions that can reach a large number of PLWH are urgently needed.
The objective of our study was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of an mHealth intervention among PLWH in China.
Based on previous formative research, we designed an mHealth intervention program that included sending weekly reminders to participants via text messages (short message service, SMS) and articles on HIV self-management three times a week via a popular social media app WeChat. A total of 62 PLWH recruited from an HIV outpatient clinic were randomly assigned to intervention or control group. The intervention lasted for 3 months, and all participants were assessed for their medication adherence, presence of depression, quality of life (QoL), and CD4 (cluster of differentiation 4) counts. Upon completing the intervention, we interviewed 31 participants to further assess the feasibility and acceptability of the study.
At baseline, the intervention and control groups did not differ in terms of demographic characteristics or any of the major outcome measures. About 85% (53/62) of the participants completed the intervention, and they provided valuable feedback on the design and content of the intervention. Participants preferred WeChat as the platform for receiving information and interactive communication for ease of access. Furthermore, they made specific recommendations about building trust, interactive features, and personalized feedback. In the follow-up assessment, the intervention and control groups did not differ in terms of major outcome measures.
This pilot study represents one of the first efforts to develop a text messaging (SMS)- and WeChat-based intervention that focused on improving the medication adherence and QoL of PLWH in China. Our data indicates that an mHealth intervention is feasible and acceptable to this population. The data collected through this pilot study will inform the future designs and implementations of mHealth interventions in this vulnerable population. We recommend more innovative mHealth interventions with rigorous designs for the PLWH in middle- and low-income countries.
Chinese Clinical Trial Registry ChiCTR1800017987; http://www.chictr.org.cn/showprojen.aspx?proj=30448 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/71zC7Pdzs)