A cash incentive has been found to lower the rates of HIV and sexually transmitted disease transmission among Malawian and Tanzanian youths revealed the World Bank, this Sunday. There were two studies undertaken to make this connection.
The first was conducted in Malawi over two years. 3,796 young poor girls in the Malawi’s Zomba district were given $4 to $10 for regular school attendance (at least 75% per month). This showed a reduction in HIV rates by 60%.
World Bank said in a statement on the studies, which were released on the first day of the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna that, “Girls who received payments not only had less sex, but when they did, they tended to choose younger, safer partners.” A lot of “transactional sex” was avoided by these girls the study found. Berk Ozler, a senior economist with the World Bank's Development Research Group, who conducted the study with researchers from George Washington University and the University of California feels that, “Programs like these could become an important missing part of effective HIV-prevention strategies.” Financial empowerment of these girls Ozler said, “can lead to reduced risk -- not just by reducing their sexual activity or practicing safer sex, but also by enabling them to choose partners who are less likely to be infected with HIV in the first place.”
In another 1 year study in Tanzania 2,399 young adults were given $20 every four months to avoid unsafe sex. The results showed a 25% drop in rates of transmission. Senior World Bank economist Damien de Walque, who carried out the study with researchers from the University of California and the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania said, “Existing prevention strategies have had limited success, so we have to look for creative new approaches to help people change their behavior and finally stop and then reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”
David Wilson, who heads the Bank's global HIV/AIDS program said that the studies show that there is a “potential for using cash payments to prevent people, especially women and girls, from engaging in unsafe sex while also ensuring that they stay in school and get the full benefit of an education.” To date, the World Bank has provided 4.5 billion dollars for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programs in developing countries.