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Effects of a Short Message Service (SMS) Intervention on Reduction of HIV Risk Behaviours and Improving HIV Testing Rates Among Populations located near Roadside Wellness Clinics: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique

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Short Message Service (SMS) offers an innovative method of promoting sexual health to key and vulnerable populations who are users of mobile phones and are at high risk of HIV infection. This cluster randomised control trial tests the effectiveness of a SMS intervention in reducing HIV risk behaviours and improving HIV testing behaviours among truck drivers, sex workers and community residents located near Roadside Wellness Clinics (RWCs) in three southern African countries. The SMS arm received 35 HIV risk reduction and HIV testing SMSs over a 6-month period. The SMS intervention had no significant impact on sexual risk behaviours. However, participants in the SMS arm were more likely to have tested for HIV in the previous 6 months (86.1% vs. 77.7%; AOR 1.71, 95% CI 1.11–2.66). The results indicate that the general SMS intervention, which provide health promoting information, improved HIV testing rates in key and vulnerable populations in southern Africa.

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We thank our colleagues from University of Gothenburg, Sweden who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted the research and North Star Alliance Roadside Wellness Clinics for allowing us to undertake research at their sites.


This research was supported by SADC HIV and AIDS Special Fund Round 111. The funding organization had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Sean Beckett.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Study procedures were approved by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Institutional Review Board (BFC483/14) and by national ethical committees (Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe and National Health Bioethics Committee for Mozambique) in each of the three countries.

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Govender, K., Beckett, S., Masebo, W. et al. Effects of a Short Message Service (SMS) Intervention on Reduction of HIV Risk Behaviours and Improving HIV Testing Rates Among Populations located near Roadside Wellness Clinics: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. AIDS Behav 23, 3119–3128 (2019).

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