Paying For Negative HIV Tests

Michael J. Coren writes a fascinating article about HIV: if health isn’t a good enough reason to protect yourself from HIV and STD’s, maybe money is.


Scientists at MIT’s Poverty Lab recently published findings in BMJ Open that tested that theory in Tanzania. They used payments known as conditional cash transfers (CCTs)–known to encourage socially desirable behavior elsewhere in areas like such as school enrollment and medical check-ups–to deter risky sex among young people (18 to 30-year-olds) in Tanzania.

As much as 5% of Tanzania’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS. Although rates have declined there during the last five years, the country’s sub-Saharan neighbors are not so lucky. Just 10 sub-Saharan countries account for more than one-third of people infected with HIV worldwide; an equal proportion of new cases also occur there. It’s clear controlling existing infections is not enough; cheap and effective prevention is needed.

The MIT researchers asked about 2,000 participants to receive tests for four common STIs–chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and M. genitalium–every four months during the course of a year. If results were negative, participants were paid $10, $20, or nothing depending on the experimental group. If positive, participants were treated, but did not receive cash. The STIs served as a proxy for HIV infection risk from sex, since payments were not contingent on HIV status, given the stigma attached to the infection in many communities.

Read the results here.