A systematic review of digital interventions to improve ART adherence among youth living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa


An estimated 3.4 million youth aged 15–24 years live with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a majority of whom reside in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Youth living with HIV (YLHIV) generally maintain lower levels of antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence compared to other age groups, which has negative impacts on long-term clinical outcomes. Given expanding mobile phone and Internet usage among youth in SSA, and a need for strategies to increase ART adherence, this review systematically assessed whether digital interventions could be used to improve YLHIV ART adherence in SSA. PRISMA 2020 guidelines were followed, and PubMed and Scopus databases were searched using terms to reflect the population of interest and different digital intervention strategies to improve ART adherence. Experimental or quasi-experimental studies in SSA evaluating the quantitative effect of digital interventions on YLHIV ART adherence were included. 3849 articles and abstracts, and 122 full texts were screened by two researchers (KG and RM). A third researcher (AC) resolved conflicts. Data were extracted from six eligible articles published between 2017 and 2021. Interventions from included studies lasted 13–96 weeks and took place in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Two of the six studies found significant intervention-related improvements in viral suppression. Of these two studies, one used short message service (SMS) for appointment and daily adherence reminders, and the other combined weekly SMS reminders with phone calls, support groups, home visits, and clinic-based counseling. The four remaining studies, using SMS and Internet-based interventions, did not find any significant adherence-related improvements. This review provides mixed evidence for using digital interventions to improve ART adherence among YLHIV in SSA. Given the relative novelty of using digital interventions in this context, further research is required to evaluate their effectiveness in improving youth ART adherence.


Griffee K, Martin R, Chory A, Vreeman R




  • Population(s)
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment
  • Prevention
    • Education/media campaigns


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