Mobile health (mHealth) has gained considerable interest recently due to its potential to improve health outcomes in developing countries with high outreach yet low costs. Several studies have explored the use of short message service (SMS) reminders to improve antiretroviral (ARV) retention and adherence, with mixed results. The majority of these studies has a quantitative nature and employs randomized designs, which do not provide further qualitative insights about other possible impacts of the messages. Based on the qualitative assessment of an SMS intervention in Burkina Faso, which complemented a (quantitative) Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT), we show that beyond the functional role of improving ARV retention and adherence, SMS messages can also play important symbolic roles in offering psychosocial support to people living with HIV (PLHIV) and improving their perception of life. Concomitantly, we show that sufficient (ICT) literacy skills cannot be taken for granted in resource-poor settings. Yet, regardless of (ICT) literacy skills, the symbolism of care was perceived. Furthermore, we highlight the importance of complementing quantitative evidence of mHealth interventions with qualitative assessments.

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Keywords antiretroviral treatment, Burkina Faso, mHealth, people living with HIV, psychosocial support
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Journal AIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Geldof, M. (Marije), Thiombiano, B.A. (Boundia Alexandre), & Wagner, N. (2020). “When I receive the message, it is a sign of love”: symbolic connotations of SMS messages for people living with HIV in Burkina Faso. AIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV. doi:10.1080/09540121.2020.1769832