Research Project: Feasibility and effects of interactive weekly mobile phone text messaging versus usual care in promoting and sustaining continued breast-feeding by HIV-infected women in South Africa: a pilot randomized controlled trial

Postdoc Year(s): 2016-2017

Dr. Moleen Zunza is an International Fellow from Zimbabwe. She has relocated to South Africa and is researching the effects of incorporating text messaging into physician communication with women living with HIV who are breastfeeding their newborn children.

It is known that HIV can be transmitted from mother-to-child throughout the duration of breastfeeding. Therefore, formula feeding is recommended for mothers living with HIV in the developed world. In the developing world, however, breastfeeding with antiretroviral therapy support is often recommended to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with formula feeding.

In resource-limited settings, the dilemma of how women living with HIV should feed their infants has largely been resolved thanks to the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs in preventing transmission. However, in the South African context, very few women choose breastfeeding. Dr. Zunza’s research seeks to examine the effectiveness of communication via text messages in addressing the social and contextual barriers to breastfeeding in South Africa.

As part of her fellowship, Dr. Zunza is running a pilot study to test the feasibility for a larger study of an interactive weekly mobile phone text message versus the standard of care in promoting sustained breastfeeding by women living with HIV. The study will recruit 60 participants over 12 weeks in primary healthcare clinics in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr. Zunza earned a Bachelor of Science at the University of Zimbabwe before moving to Stellenbosch University in South Africa where she completed a Master of Science and later a PhD in Maternal/Child Health. Her supervisors for her fellowship are, from Canada, Dr. Lehana Thabane (McMaster University), and in South Africa, Drs. Mark Cotton and Taryn Young (Stellenbosch University).

Zunza M, Cotton MF, Mbuagbaw L, Lester R, Thabane L. Interactive weekly mobile phone text messaging plus motivational interviewing in promotion of breastfeeding among women living with HIV in South Africa. Trials. 2017 July 17:18(331).