World Aids Day, on December 1st, is a global campaign that seeks to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote the benefits of getting tested. A recent study reveals a greener way to encourage testing, money.
An important first step towards eliminating HIV and AIDS is encouraging everyone to get tested so those living with the virus can get treatment, subsequently lowering transmission rates. Unfortunately, older children and adolescents, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are more likely than adults to go undiagnosed. This can mean that most girls and boys aged 8-17 are only informed of their status upon the onset of AIDS.
In evaluating one promising initiative, The Lancet published a recent study analyzing the effect of economic incentives to boost HIV testing and counselling in Zimbabwe. There were three groups: households that received a $2 incentive for children and adolescents to get tested; households that received a lottery ticket with a one-in-eight chance of winning either $5 or $10; and households that received no financial incentive.
According to the results of the study, households that received either the fixed $2 or the lottery ticket had higher rates of testing than those that did not receive any incentive. Even though the testing was free, HIV testing in the non-incentivized group remained at a low 20%.
Another recent study completed in Tanzania showed that incentivizing adults to get tested for HIV was extremely cost-effective in terms of quality-adjusted life years gained.
Africa is the most affected region in the world accounting for 25.6 million people infected by HIV and almost two-thirds of new infections globally. Studies like these are significant in highlighting innovative ways to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS.
photo credit: WHO