mHealth for HIV Treatment & Prevention: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Caricia Catalani*, 1, William Philbrick2, Hamish Fraser3, , Patricia Mechael2, Dennis M. Israelski1
1 InSTEDD & University of California, Berkeley, USA
2 mHealth Alliance, USA
3 Partners in Health & Brigham and Womens Hospital, USA

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© Catalani 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 University of California, Berkeley & InSTEDD, USA; Tel: (415) 992- 7947; E-mails:,


This systematic review assesses the published literature to describe the landscape of mobile health technology (mHealth) for HIV/AIDS and the evidence supporting the use of these tools to address the HIV prevention, care, and treatment cascade. The speed of innovation, broad range of initiatives and tools, and heterogeneity in reporting have made it difficult to uncover and synthesize knowledge on how mHealth tools might be effective in addressing the HIV pandemic.

To do address this gap, a team of reviewers collected literature on the use of mobile technology for HIV/AIDS among health, engineering, and social science literature databases and analyzed a final set of 62 articles. Articles were systematically coded, assessed for scientific rigor, and sorted for HIV programmatic relevance. The review revealed evidence that mHealth tools support HIV programmatic priorities, including: linkage to care, retention in care, and adherence to antiretroviral treatment. In terms of technical features, mHealth tools facilitate alerts and reminders, data collection, direct voice communication, educational messaging, information on demand, and more. Studies were mostly descriptive with a growing number of quasi-experimental and experimental designs. There was a lack of evidence around the use of mHealth tools to address the needs of key populations, including pregnant mothers, sex workers, users of injection drugs, and men who have sex with men.

The science and practice of mHealth for HIV are evolving rapidly, but still in their early stages. Small-scale efforts, pilot projects, and preliminary descriptive studies are advancing and there is a promising trend toward implementing mHealth innovation that is feasible and acceptable within low-resource settings, positive program outcomes, operational improvements, and rigorous study design

Keywords: : HIV Treatment, HIV Prevention, information technology, mobile phone, mHealth..