High mobile phone ownership but low internet access and use among young adults attending an urban HIV clinic in Uganda

16 May 2018

Whilst there is increasing interest in the use of mobile phones and other technology (mHealth) for improving health outcomes; limited data exists on how young people living with HIV use mhealth technologies to get information and to support their health. We sought to assess access and use of mobile phones and the Internet among young adults living with HIV attending the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) clinic, Kampala. Data collection took place between March 2014 and January 2016 among young adults aged 18-24 years attending the IDI transition clinic; in a cross-sectional survey using a semi-structured questionnaire. Of the 272 young adults interviewed, 75% were female, median age was 22.3 years (IQR: 20.6-23.5). Whilst there was a trend to females being more likely to use mobile phones compared to the males, this was not statistically significant (93.7% female versus 85.9%, p=0.057). Fifty percent of mobile phone users used their phones for HIV-related activities such as medication reminders. General access and use of the internet was low at 34% and users were more likely to be males than females (45.5% versus 30.6%, p=0.027). A third (32.3%) of the internet users used it to search for HIV-related information. Owning a mobile phone was associated with ease of access to HIV information and preference to receive messages via text messages(p<0.05). Having internet access was associated with very easy access to HIV information and preference to receive information via email. Despite the rise in smart phones and internet access in Uganda, in this group both access to and use of standard mobile phones is higher than for internet methods such as email. Using newer technologies to engage with patients especially young people is a great opportunity, but the innovations need to be tailored to the needs and technology access for different patient populations. Key words: HIV, Internet, Mobile phones, Young Adults, Uganda