Short message service (SMS) reminders and real-time adherence monitoring improve antiretroviral therapy adherence in rural Uganda

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Abstract

Objective:

To explore the effects of four types of short message service (SMS) plus real-time adherence monitoring on antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence: daily reminders, weekly reminders, reminders triggered after a late or missed dose (delivered to patients), and notifications triggered by sustained adherence lapses (delivered to patient-nominated social supporters).

Design:

Pilot randomized controlled trial.

Methods:

Sixty-three individuals initiating ART received a real-time adherence monitor and were randomized (1 : 1 : 1): (1) Scheduled SMS reminders (daily for 1 month, weekly for 2 months), then SMS reminders triggered by a late or missed dose (no monitoring signal within 2 h of expected dosing); SMS notifications to social supporters for sustained adherence lapses (no monitoring signal for >48 h) added after 3 months. (2) Triggered SMS reminders starting at enrolment; SMS notifications to social supporters added after 3 months. (3) Control: No SMS. HIV RNA was determined at 9 months. Percentage adherence and adherence lapses were compared by linear generalized estimating equations and Poisson regression, respectively.

Results:

Median age was 31 years, 65% were women, and median enrolment CD4+ cell count was 322 cells/μl 97% took once daily tenofovir/emtricitabine/efavirenz. Compared to control, adherence was 11.1% higher (P = 0.04) and more than 48-h lapses were less frequent (IRR 0.6, P = 0.02) in the scheduled SMS arm. Adherence and more than 48-h lapses were similar in the triggered SMS arm and control. No differences in HIV RNA were seen.

Conclusion:

Scheduled SMS reminders improved ART in the context of real-time monitoring. Larger studies are needed to determine the impact of triggered reminders and role of social supporters in improving adherence.

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