Text message reminders double HIV re-testing rates in gay men

Published: February 22, 2011

Text message reminders significantly increase re-testing rates in gay men for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Australian investigators report in the online edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Testing rates were twice as high among men who received the reminders than in men who did not.

“To our knowledge, this is the first published study to demonstrate improved HIV/STI re-testing in MSM [men who have sex with men] through SMS [short message service] reminders,” comment the investigators.

Gay and other men who have sex with men in Australia are recommended to have an annual HIV test. More frequent tests, at intervals of every three to six months, are recommended for individuals with riskier sex lives. Mathematical modelling has suggested that increasing the proportion of individuals who are aware of their HIV status could help reduce HIV incidence.

However, only a quarter of high-risk gay men have two or more HIV tests and sexual health screens each year.

Investigators from the Sydney Sexual Health Centre wished to see if sending text or SMS reminders to gay men increased testing rates.

To test this, they designed a study involving 714 HIV-negative gay men who had an HIV test and sexual health screen between January and August 2009. Every four months, reminders to re-test were sent to these individuals.

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