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by Robert MacKay, Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | Categories: Sexual Health

Cash incentives might be the answer to the problem of sexually transmitted infections in Tanzania. Studies have been carried out on how best to prevent the spread of HIV and other infections in African countries and a recent study by the researchers of the University of Berkeley in California, the Development Research Group of the World Bank and the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania, showed that offering a cash incentive of $60 (the equivalent of one quarter of the average salary for one year) in exchange for the efforts of the participants to steer clear of STIs, significantly reduced the number of infections. They are not sure whether this incentive reduced the level of unprotected sex or reduced the amount of individuals having sexual intercourse. Although the researchers (for ethical reasons) could not associate the cash incentives with HIV, the results strongly suggest that while reducing the risk of spreading diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, they could also be inhibiting the spread of the HIV virus.

The group of males and females (18 to 30 years) were randomly separated into 3 groups including a no payment control group, a low payment group and a high payment group. The individuals in the paid groups were given their negotiated payments when they tested negative for STIs and counselling sessions prior to and post testing were offered in order to teach individuals more about their sexual behaviour. The low payment group showed the same number of infections as the no payment group at the end of the study, suggesting that the size of the incentive matters. The experiment will be repeated next year and now a larger study is being considered. With this, there are hopes surrounding the possibilities for cash incentives slowing the HIV epidemic in Africa.

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