Short Text Messages to Motivate HIV Testing Among Men Who have Sex with Men: A Qualitative Study in Lima, Peru

Luis A Menacho*, 1, Magaly M Blas1, 2, Isaac E Alva1, 2, E Roberto Orellana3
1 Epidemiology, HIV and STD Unit, School of Public Health and Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru
2 NGO Via Libre, Lima, Peru
3 Schools of Social Work and Community Health, Portland State University, USA

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© Menacho et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Epidemiology, HIV and STD Unit, School of Public Health and Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru; Tel: +511 - 4818283; E-mail:



The objective of this study is to identify features and content that short message service (SMS) should have in order to motivate HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Lima, Peru.


From October, 2010 to February, 2011, we conducted focus groups at two stages; six focus groups were conducted to explore and identify SMS content and features and two additional focus groups were conducted to tailor SMS content. The text messages were elaborated within the theoretical framework of the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills model and the Social Support Theory.


A total of 62 individuals participated in the focus groups. The mean age of participants was 28 years (range 18-39). We identified important features and content items needed for the successful delivery of text messages, including: a) the use of neutral and coded language; b) appropriate frequency and time of delivery; c) avoiding mass and repetitive messages; and d) use of short, concise and creative messages. Although in Peru receiving text messages is usually a free service, it is important to remind participants that receiving messages will be free of charge.


Text messages can be used to promote HIV testing among Peruvian MSM. It is important to consider adequate frequency, message content and cost when delivering messages to promote HIV testing in this population.

Keywords: Cellular phone, men who have sex with men, HIV prevention, HIV testing, risk behaviors, text messaging..