Hyacinth Foundation

Text-2-Test

Engage 700 young men who have sex with men (MSM) in HIV testing and prevention services with a strategy that addresses logistical issues like scheduling and travel.
Surpassed Initial Testing Goal
100% Linkage to Care
Goal
To address barriers and improve HIV testing rates among young MSMs in Jersey City, we will combine traditional and digital marketing efforts with an easy-to-use SMS shortcode to increase our testing rate by 10% within one fiscal year.
Solution
Informed by feedback from focus group discussions with program participants, a shift toward direct and immediate communication was identified as critical. The solution: implementing an SMS marketing strategy. This approach allowed for instant communication, providing the convenience of scheduling tests via text messages and automated reminders.

DetailsĀ 

The Hyacinth Foundation, New Jersey’s pioneer in HIV services, has transitioned from supporting end-of-life care to enabling individuals with HIV to lead full, healthy lives thanks to medical advancements. In 2018, as part of our mission to halt the spread of HIV and provide crucial support, the Mpowerment program in Jersey City aimed to engage 700 young men who have sex with men (MSM) in HIV testing and prevention services. Traditional and digital marketing efforts had been deployed to raise awareness and encourage testing appointments, yet the expected conversion was not being met. Investigating the barriers to scheduling tests revealed that logistical issues like scheduling and travel were significant deterrents.

Challenge:

Despite the introduction of a mobile testing unit to alleviate access issues, the challenge remained to effectively communicate this service to our target demographic. Initial engagement strategies were not yielding the desired uptick in testing appointments among the young MSM community.

Solution:

Informed by feedback from focus group discussions with program participants, a shift toward direct and immediate communication was identified as critical. The solution: implementing an SMS marketing strategy. This approach allowed for instant communication, providing the convenience of scheduling tests via text messages and automated reminders. By partnering with Trumpia, we launched the Text-2-Test campaign, which enabled individuals to initiate an appointment setup through a simple shortcode, “TEST,” sent to 5522. This system also facilitated the collection of necessary pre-appointment information through an interactive, text-based questionnaire, streamlining the process for both the foundation and the participants.

Implementation:

  • Research and Procurement: Conducted thorough research to select an SMS marketing provider that suited our needs, resulting in a partnership with Trumpia.
  • Text-2-Test Campaign Development: Developed a comprehensive campaign that integrated traditional (billboards, bus displays, radio ads) and digital marketing strategies, all directing the audience to use the shortcode for scheduling HIV tests.
  • Engagement and Follow-Up: Utilized the SMS system to send out reminders and engage with individuals who had not yet scheduled their appointment or had an upcoming one.

Outcomes:

The Text-2-Test campaign proved to be a resounding success, surpassing the initial goal by testing 1,200 individuals, with a positivity rate of 10% and a 100% linkage to care for those who tested positive. This approach not only met but exceeded our outreach targets, demonstrating the effectiveness of immediate, direct communication methods in public health campaigns.

The campaign’s success caught the attention of the CDC and inspired other programs within the Hyacinth Foundation to adopt a similar strategy, marking a significant shift in how the foundation approaches community engagement and health promotion.

Reflections:

This project highlighted the importance of listening to and understanding the target community’s preferences and behaviors. By adapting our outreach strategy to include SMS marketing, we were able to meet our audience where they were, both physically and technologically, leading to increased engagement and testing rates. The success of the Text-2-Test campaign underscores the potential of innovative communication strategies in public health initiatives and sets a precedent for future programs aiming to increase accessibility and engagement in health services.

This case study illustrates the Hyacinth Foundation’s commitment to evolving its strategies to meet the changing needs of the communities it serves, showcasing the foundation’s innovative approach to overcoming challenges in public health outreach.