The effect of an interactive weekly mobile phone messaging on retention in prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV program: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial (WELTEL PMTCT)

July 11, 2016

Improving retention in prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs is critical to optimize maternal and infant health outcomes, especially now that lifelong treatment is immediate regardless of CD4 cell count). The WelTel strategy of using weekly short message service (SMS) to engage patients in care in Kenya, where mobile coverage even in poor areas is widespread has been shown to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and viral load suppression among those on ART. The aim of this study is to determine the effect of the WelTel SMS intervention compared to standard care on retention in PMTCT program in Kenya.

WelTel PMTCT is a four to seven-centers, two-arm open randomized controlled trial (RCT) that will be conducted in urban and rural Kenya. Over 36 months, we plan to recruit 600 pregnant women at their first antenatal care visit and follow the mother-infant pair until they are discharged from the PMTCT program (when infant is aged 24 months). Participants will be randomly allocated to the intervention or control arm (standard care) at a 1:1 ratio. Intervention arm participants will receive an interactive weekly SMS 'How are you?' to which they are supposed to respond within 24 h. Depending on the response (ok, problem or no answer), a PMTCT nurse will follow-up and triage any problems that are identified. The primary outcome will be retention in care defined as the proportion of mother-infant pairs coming for infant HIV testing at 24 months from delivery. Secondary outcomes include a) adherence to WelTel; (b) adherence to antiretroviral medicine; (c) acceptance of WelTel and (d) cost-effectiveness of the WelTel intervention.

This trial will provide evidence on the effectiveness of mHealth for PMTCT retention. Trial results and the cost-effectiveness evaluation will be used to inform policy and potential scale-up of mHealth among mothers living with HIV.


Awiti PO, Grotta A, van der Kop M, Dusabe J, Thorson A, Mwangi J, Belloco R, Lester R, Ternent L, Were E, Ekström AM


BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 201616:86