Income for prevention

March 5, 2014

Poverty and dependency are risk factors for HIV infection. People may engage in higher risk taking activities to generate an income or access basic commodities, such as transactional sex. Exploitation, especially of women and girls due to their economic status, puts them at even higher risk. However, especially when it comes to young people, most HIV prevention interventions are not complemented with a livelihood or economic development component. Yet results from recent studies are promising.

Research demonstrates significant reduction in risky sexual behavior through economic empowerment

Results from recent studies are showing that economic empowerment of youth significantly reduces their risky sexual health behaviours. In turn it reduces HIV prevalence rates among young women and men. One such study in Malawi, which utilized the method of cash transfers to school age girls, reduced the risk of HIV infection quite dramatically.

Another interesting programme and study on asset building by orphaned adolescents in Uganda has shown that orphaned adolescents who have savings:

  • show less risky sexual behaviour,
  • feel mentally empowered,
  • make better life choices.

Adolescents with some assets have a sense of tangible hope for the future, which in turn encourages them to make careful decisions concerning their future, including altering their intentions to engage in sexual risk-taking behaviours.

And lastly a study in Lesotho showed that the HIV infections decreased by 39% among adolescent women who participated in a financial incentive scheme in the form of a lottery to remain STI-negative.

Synergy required for optimal HIV response

To arrive at an optimal HIV response, synergies between HIV specific efforts and poverty reduction initiatives are required. STOP AIDS NOW!, therefore, advocates for this and promotes collaboration in both fields. Together with Aflatoun, an international NGO specialized in financial education and partners in South Africa, we recently developed a programme to link quality SRHR education to financial education. Given the latest evidence, we aim to achieve for young people to be both socially and economically empowered to make healthy and informed decisions with regard to their sexual health and productive life. We are currently looking for funds for this programme. 

This article has been published in the STOP AIDS NOW! E-news “Income for Prevention” (March 2014)