The past decade has seen an increase in these approaches among organisations and health facilities serving HIV-affected communities in sub-Saharan Africa where barriers to care are prominent. During this time, health researchers and providers observed how the advent of text messaging, the rise of social media, and the increased mobile phone penetration across the region cultivated positive attitudes toward digital health services among people living with HIV (PLHIV), and particularly among adolescents and young people (AYP). mHealth interventions can take a variety of forms and employ multiple tools to deliver virtual support to AYPLHIV. The aims of these interventions are to promote ART adherence, improve SRHR education, provide psychosocial support, and enhance overall care.
Resource constraints and barriers to care within the South African health system have created an increased need for virtual support, making it an essential and incessantly burgeoning avenue for programme development over the years. Subsequently, a heightened sense of urgency for virtual support options and differentiated service delivery models emerged in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to not only strain, but completely destabilise, essential health care delivery. Particularly, after South Africa instituted a national lockdown in March 2020, four major challenges arose, which compromised continuity of care for AYPLHIV.
In response to these challenges, health facilities and community-based organisations (CBOs) mobilised to implement emergency response plans for ensuring continuity of services for their most vulnerable community members. These emergency measures included plans to incorporate mHealth tools for individual case management and support groups.