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AIDS prevention

Safe sex subsidy

by Eleonore von Bothmer

Opinion

Actress in a Tanzanian AIDS-awareness drama

Actress in a Tanzanian AIDS-awareness drama

In an interesting experiment, the World Bank plans to use conditional cash transfers to keep HIV/AIDS in check. A pilot project is to be launched in southern Tanzania this year. [ By Eleonore von Bothmer ]

Over the next three years, the World Bank plans to pay 3000 young Tanzanians between the age of 15 and 30 for having safe sex, so they don’t catch AIDS. According to The Financial Times, each participant will receive $ 45 if no sexually transmitted diseases are found in regularly conducted laboratory tests. For most of the people concerned, this amount is equivalent to a fourth of their annual income.

The researchers who are designing the pilot study hope that the financial incentive will make people consider long-term consequences of their behavior. It is believed that the payment, along with counseling, can reduce infection rates, especially in the target group most in danger: young women. Many of them depend upon the generosity of their lovers. Once these women have more money of their own, they will be in a stronger position when negotiating the use of condoms. In the pilot project, there will also be a control group that is not paid any money.

Conditional cash transfers have proven successful in Mexico and Brazil. In either country, however, they are not used in relation to sexual behavior. Rather, poor families there are paid for sending their children to school and having them vaccinated.

For good reason, the World Bank wants to launch the new health programme this year to slow down the spread of HIV/AIDS. In spite of large sums spent on prevention and care all over the world, 2.5 million people become infected every year, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The finishing touches are still being put on the scientific concept, which also has yet to undergo an ethical review. The approach makes sense. Should the experiment not be undertaken, it would be a pity if, in the neighbourhood of the White House in Washington, the only reason was conservatives’ obsession with other people’s sexual morals.