Thursday, July 28, 2011

What's next for HIV prevention? Paying people to be healthy

via aidsmap, By Roger Pebody

Researchers are investigating the impact of offering financial incentives to people who are at risk of acquiring or passing on HIV, the International AIDS Society conference (IAS 2011) in Rome heard last week.

A large study in the United States is looking at whether a test-and-treat approach should be supported by offering incentives to newly diagnosed people who attend medical services and maintain an undetectable viral load.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of studies are investigating whether providing incentives to adolescent girls who remain in education reduces their long-term HIV risk.

Such approaches are not without their critics, but those participating in a conference symposium on the topic mostly felt that these interventions are trying to tackle structural factors and have the potential to be effective, especially when used alongside other prevention interventions.

“We shouldn’t look at behavioural economics as the new magic bullet,” commented Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA). “This fits into a broader combination approach,” she said.

As well as cash, incentives may take the form of food or shopping vouchers. They are sometimes called conditional cash transfers, and the approach is sometimes referred to as contingency management.

The idea is already widely used in the development field (often aiming to impact poverty or education), and increasingly in relation to health.

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