mHealth entry points for HIV prevention and care among adolescents and young people in South Africa

Working paper number:457

Author: Eda He, Lucas Hertzog*, Elona Toska,Craig Carty and Lucie Cluver
Unit: Accelerate Hub


Although mobile phone access in South Africa is high, research on access and utilization among adolescents is nascent. mHealth interventions have a huge potential to transform health seeking practices and service provision patterns, especially among populations with low retention in care, such as adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). In these preliminary analyses, we explore factors associated with access to and utilization of mobile phones for health information and support in a longitudinal sample of adolescents living in HIV-endemic communities in South Africa. All adolescents were participants in two waves of the Mzantsi Wakho cohort study, set in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. Analyses explored mobile phone access and utilization trends over time, as well as factors associated with greater use of mobile phones for health-related information.
The findings reveal an increase from 43% to 77% between two interviews in the use of mobile phones, especially smartphones, as adolescents grew older. Adolescents were particularly interested in social media platforms, games, media, and using their devices to communicate with peers. In the random effects model, older participants and those who were in a relationship were more likely to seek health information on their phones. For each year of age, adolescents were 24% more likely to use their mobile phones to search for health-related information. Participants who were in a relationship were 55% more likely to present mHealth seeking behaviours. Adolescent girls and young women were more likely to use their mobile phones for communication, while their male peers were more likely to use them for entertainment purposes. Our study drew upon a changing scenario and captures nuances in this process, aiming to better understand how mobile phones may be used as entry points for designing and implementing efficient mHealth interventions.

Publication file:WP457HeHertzogToskaCartyCluver.pdf