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Test@Work Texts: Mobile Phone Messaging to Increase Awareness of HIV and HIV Testing in UK Construction Employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Middleton, Matthew; Somerset, Sarah; Evans, Catrin; Blake, Holly

Test@Work Texts: Mobile Phone Messaging to Increase Awareness of HIV and HIV Testing in UK Construction Employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic Thumbnail


Matthew Middleton

Professor of Evidence Based Healthcare

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Professor of Behavioural Medicine


© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Background: HIV poses a threat to global health. With effective treatment options available, education and testing strategies are essential in preventing transmission. Text messaging is an effective tool for health promotion and can be used to target higher risk populations. This study reports on the design, delivery and testing of a mobile text messaging SMS intervention for HIV prevention and awareness, aimed at adults in the construction industry and delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: Participants were recruited at Test@Work workplace health promotion events (21 sites, n = 464 employees), including health checks with HIV testing. Message development was based on a participatory design and included a focus group (n = 9) and message fidelity testing (n = 291) with assessment of intervention uptake, reach, acceptability, and engagement. Barriers to HIV testing were identified and mapped to the COM-B behavioural model. 23 one-way push SMS messages (19 included short web links) were generated and fidelity tested, then sent via automated SMS to two employee cohorts over a 10-week period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Engagement metrics measured were: opt-outs, SMS delivered/read, number of clicks per web link, four two-way pull messages exploring repeat HIV testing, learning new information, perceived usefulness and behaviour change. Results: 291 people participated (68.3% of eligible attendees). A total of 7726 messages were sent between March and June 2020, with 91.6% successfully delivered (100% read). 12.4% of participants opted out over 10 weeks. Of delivered messages, links were clicked an average of 14.4% times, max 24.1% for HIV related links. The number of clicks on web links declined over time (r = −6.24, p = 0.01). Response rate for two-way pull messages was 13.7% of participants. Since the workplace HIV test offer at recruitment, 21.6% reported having taken a further HIV test. Qualitative replies indicated behavioural influence of messaging on exercise, lifestyle behaviours and intention to HIV test. Conclusions: SMS messaging for HIV prevention and awareness is acceptable to adults in the construction industry, has high uptake, low attrition and good engagement with message content, when delivered during a global pandemic. Data collection methods may need refinement for audience, and effect of COVID-19 on results is yet to be understood.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 22, 2020
Online Publication Date Oct 26, 2020
Publication Date Nov 1, 2020
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 2, 2020
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Print ISSN 1661-7827
Electronic ISSN 1660-4601
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 21
Article Number 7819
Public URL
Publisher URL


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