Mobile sexual health services for adolescents: Investigating the acceptability of youth-directed mobile clinic services in Cape Town, South Africa
BACKGROUND: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic is growing rapidly among South African adolescents and young adults (AYA). Although HIV counselling and testing, HIV prevention and treatment options are widely available, many AYA delay health-seeking until illness occurs, demonstrating a need for youth responsive, integrated sexual and reproductive health services (SRHS). While feasibility and cost-effectiveness have been evaluated, acceptability of mobile clinics among AYA has yet to be established. The objective of this study was to investigate patient acceptability of mobile AYA SRHS and compare mobile clinic usage and HIV outcomes with nearby conventional clinics.
METHODS: Patients presenting to a mobile clinic in Cape Town were invited to participate in an acceptability study of a mobile clinic after using the service. A trained researcher administered an acceptability questionnaire. Mobile clinic medical records during the study period were compared with the records of AYA attending four clinics in the same community.
RESULTS: Three hundred three enrolled participants (16-24 years, 246 (81.2%) female) rated mobile AYA SRHS acceptability highly (median = 4,6 out of 5), with 90% rating their experience as better or much better than conventional clinics. The mobile clinic, compared to conventional clinics, attracted more men (26% v 13%, p < 0,000), younger patients (18 v 19 years, p < 0,000), and yielded more HIV diagnoses (4% v 2%, p < 0,000).
CONCLUSIONS: Given the high ratings of acceptability, and the preference for mobile clinics over conventional primary health clinics, the scalability of mobile clinics should be investigated as part of a multipronged approach to improve the uptake of SRHS diagnostic, prevention and treatment options for AYA.