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Small Cash Transfers To Young Women May Help Them Avoid HIV Infection, Study Suggests

Cash transfer programs involving small amounts of money paid to schoolgirls and their families who live in low-income settings can help the young women “resist the attentions of older men and avoid HIV infection, according to a new study” published online Wednesday in the Lancet, the Guardian reports (Boseley, 2/14). The study, conducted by researchers from the World Bank, the University of California at San Diego, and George Washington University, found that the weighted prevalence of HIV among girls who had received money was 1.2 percent (seven out of 490) compared with three percent in the control group (17 out of 799) after 18 months (Baird et al., 2/15).

Young women ages 13-22 and their families “were randomly assigned, according to where they lived, either to receive between $1 and $5 a month, with their families given between $4 and $10 a month, or to get nothing,” according to the Guardian. The study also found that neither the amount of money received nor payment conditional on school attendance affected infection rates; girls who received payments were more likely to attend school than those who did not; and girls who received payments “were less likely to be having sex frequently and less likely to have a partner over the age of 25,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 2/14). In an accompanying commentary, Audrey Pettifor of the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and colleagues write that the results “add to the increasing evidence suggesting that economic development and anti-poverty programs can alter the context of sexual decision making and, thus, HIV infection risk” and call for additional research (Pettifor et al., 2/15).