The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending $398,213 on a project studying whether paying male Mexican sex workers for being free of sexually transmitted diseases will increase condom use.
The study, “Conditional Economic Incentives to Reduce HIV Risks: A Pilot in Mexico,” began in June 2011 and is funded through the end of May 2014.
“The working hypothesis is that a program with modest economic incentives to stay free of sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be implemented among MSW (male sex workers) to incentivize condom use and reduction of sex partners,” the abstract of the study says. “We hypothesize that CEI (conditional economic incentives) treatment groups will exhibit greater program participation and retention rates as compared to the control group.”
The study includes male sex workers in Mexico City, who first must attend a workshop on the benefits of condom use and “condom negotiation” before they are broken up into smaller groups.
According to the study abstract, one group of 100 individuals will “receive low incentive ($200 pesos/each time) only if they are free of STIs at months 6 and 12.”
Another group of 100 will receive high incentives “($500 pesos/each time) if they are free of STIs at months 6 and 12.”
The control group of 100 does not receive any money regardless if they are STI free or not.
Attempts by CNSNews.com to contact Project Leader Dr. Omar Galarraga of Brown University to discuss the study went unreturned.
However, some early results of Dr. Galarraga’s findings were recently published in The European Journal of Health Economics.
A Brown University article on the publication quotes Galarraga: ‘We’re trying to prevent HIV from spreading and we are trying to save money,’ said public health economist Omar Galarraga, assistant professor of health services policy and practice and lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Health Economics.”
“We want to make sure that every dollar spent has the greatest impact.”
“Through detailed questionnaires administered to 1,745 gay men 18-25 years of age, Galarraga and his colleagues in Mexico’s Institute for Public Health (INSP) found that at a rate of $288 a year, more than three-quarters of the men would attend monthly prevention talks, engage in testing for sexually transmitted infections, and pledge to stay free of STI’s with testing to verify that. To obtain a similar level of participation among the 5.1 percent of the sample who were male sex workers, the price was much lower: $156 a year.”
“The target population seems generally very well-disposed to participate in these types of programs at prices which are consistent with other social programs currently in place in Mexico for preventing other health risks,” Galarraga said.
When questioned about the goals of the study, NIH replied, “NIH research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans. Research into unhealthy human behaviors that are estimated to be the proximal cause of more than half of the disease burden in the U.S. will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.”
“Only by developing effective prevention and treatment strategies for health-injuring behaviors can we reduce the disease burden in the U.S. and thus, enhance health and lengthen life, which is the mission of the NIH.”