Mobile phones effective in collecting data from HIV-positive pregnant women

Mobile phones were found both to be acceptable and feasible in the collection of maternal and child health data from women living with HIV in South Africa, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research

"Most of the world's women living with human immunodeficiency virus reside in sub-Saharan Africa," study authors wrote. "Although efforts to reduce mother-to-child transmission are underway, obtaining complete and accurate data from rural clinical sites to track progress presents a major challenge."

South Africa has implemented the Prevention of Maternal-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) package as recommended by the World Health Organization. The PMTCT program requires newly pregnant women to complete a series of sequential steps, also known as the PMTCT cascade, that are aimed at first diagnosing and then treating HIV infection.

As part of a larger clinic-based trial, 16 interviewers were trained to conduct mobile phone-assisted personal interviews (MPAPI). From October 2010 to March 2011, this project, dubbed Project Masihambisane, conducted 708 interviews with 520 participants. Of these 520 participants, 512 (98.5 percent) agreed to take part in the mobile phone questionnaire. 

"The results obtained in this study suggest that MPAPI may be both feasible and acceptable to use within the South African PMTCT program," concludes the article. "South Africa is unique among African countries in its broad mobile network coverage, well-maintained mobile infrastructure, and electrification of rural health facilities. How well this approach to the collection of PMTCT data would perform in the context of other low- and middle-income countries is, therefore, a limitation of this work."

Three groups of participants took part in this study. The first group of participants (participant group 1) included the 16 interviewers recruited and trained on MPAPI for the primary study. The second group (participant group 2), recruited for participation in the focus group, consisted of 12 pregnant women with HIV living in this region of South Africa who were enrolled through community forums set up for the larger study. The third group of participants (participant group 3) were pregnant women living with HIV recruited through the primary study.

In related news, a low-cost mobile device can provide a blood-based HIV test with laboratory-level accuracy and real-time synchronization of patient health record data, according to an article published in Clinical Chemistry. Researchers say the portable solution could serve as an alternative for those in resource-limited healthcare settings that don't have access to laboratory diagnostic equipment and patients' health records. 

To learn more:
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