Berkeley Research Team Finds That Cash Rewards May Be a Cost-Effective Means to Stem the AIDS Epidemic in Africa

A new study by researchers of the Development Research Group at the World Bank and University of California at Berkeley finds that cash rewards can have a significant impact in reducing sexually transmitted diseases in Africa. The researchers used three control groups totaling 2,399 adults in southwestern Tanzania, a region where HIV and other sexually transmitted infections are comparable to other areas of Africa. The participants were tested every four months to see if they had contracted a wide range of sexually transmitted diseases. All groups were counseled about disease prevention and those found with diseases were treated.

The first group was not compensated. Members of the second group were given $10 every four months if they did not obtain a sexually transmitted disease. The third group received $20 every four months if they remained disease free. The money was a major incentive given the fact that the average annual income in the region is $240.

The results showed that the incidence of sexually transmitted disease was 25 percent lower in the control group that received the highest compensation compared to those participants who received no money. The researchers conclude that cash rewards may be a cost-effective way to slow the AIDS epidemic in Africa.