Background: In the UK, African communities are a focus of public health efforts to increase uptake of HIV testing. Mobile phone interventions may be an innovative way of reaching migrant groups who are known to face multiple obstacles in accessing mainstream health services. This paper presents findings from a feasibility study that used participatory approaches to investigate the use of a text messaging intervention to encourage HIV testing among migrant African communities.
Methods: Participants were recruited in the city of Nottingham by a team of community researchers. They were sent two text messages per week (one on HIV and one on general health) for 12 weeks. Baseline and follow-up questionnaires were completed to measure HIV testing behaviour, HIV related knowledge and attitudes and general health. Participants’views on the intervention were solicited.
Results: One hundred and sixty-nine participants were enrolled in the study. Follow up data on HIV testing was obtained for 76 participants (45%) and complete follow up measures were available from 60 participants (36%). Eight reported seeking an HIV test during the study period. There were statistically significant positive changes in attitudes about HIV, and a trend towards increased knowledge about HIV. One third of participants reported improvements in physical activity levels, diet, and stress management following the intervention. The intervention messages and structure were positively evaluated.
Conclusions: Well-designed mobile phone messaging proved to be a feasible and acceptable intervention to promote both HIV testing and lifestyle behaviours among African migrant communities in the UK. When co-constructed with communities, they hold considerable promise for overcoming some of the health-related barriers faced by migrant populations in new countries. Future research and service development should focus on exploiting and evaluating this potential in relation to other key health priorities.
Evans, C., Suggs, L. S., Turner, K., Occa, A., Juma, A., & Blake, H. (2018). Mobile phone messaging to promote uptake of HIV testing among migrant African communities in the UK. Health Education Journal, doi:10.1177/0017896918785928. ISSN 0017-8969