If the sores, itching, pain, and sheer shame of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don’t provide enough reasons for people to have safe sex, how about cash rewards? That’s what a group of MIT researchers asked in Tanzania, Co.Exist reports.
More than 5% of adults in Tanzania live with HIV. Given the stigma many Tanzanians associate with HIV, the researchers decided to study the transmission of STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, and M. genitalium) as a stand-in.
They enlisted 2000 18-30 year old’s to come in for regular STI testing over the course of a year (pdf). The participants were broken up into three groups. The researchers rewarded them with either $10, $20, or nothing, for a clean set of STI tests.
At first, no dice. But by the end of twelve months, the MIT team saw the payoff of their payments. Co.Exist’s Michael J. Coren reports:
The high cash payment ($20) group reduced the number of STI infections by 19%, while the number of those with STI rose both in the control group (by 13%) and the one receiving only $10 (by 19%).
The researchers acknowledge their results are still preliminary, but they encourage consideration of implementing such cash rewards for good sexual health on a wider scale.
These kind of financial incentives, called Conditional Cash Transfers by the World Bank, are now in place in over 30 countries worldwide to promote health and education. In 2009 alone the World Bank spent US$2.4 billion on such programs.