CPC release: UNC receives $2.7 million NIH grant to determine whether paying girls to attend school reduces HIV risk

Aug 27, 2009

UNC News issued a release to the media about this new study: http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/2818/107/

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the effects of using monetary incentives and community mobilization to prevent young women in South Africa from becoming infected with HIV.

Audrey Pettifor, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at UNC-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health, is principal investigator of the study. Pettifor is also a faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center, where the study is based.

In South Africa, young women are infected at 3-4 times the rate of young men and by the time a woman reaches age 21, she has a 1 in 3 chance of being infected. Pettifor's previous research found that young women in South Africa who had not completed high school were almost four times more likely to be HIV infected compared to those that had.

In this groundbreaking study, 1500 households that are poor and with young women in the 9th grade will be randomized to receive a monthly cash payment if the girl attends school. The study examines whether those who receive the cash payment are at lower risk for HIV infection compared to girls who do not receive the cash payments. Families will receive payments that are roughly equivalent to $37 a month, enough to feed a family of four for a month.

In addition, community mobilization activities, randomized by village, will inform young men about risk behaviors and prevention of HIV infection. These activities will address how changing gender norms can create supportive environments that reduce women's risk of HIV infection. This dual approach allows researchers to examine how combining economic incentives and changing community norms around HIV risk can reduce HIV infections in South Africa's young women.

"This project is novel in its attempt to address both structural and community factors that place young women at risk of HIV infection," said Pettifor. "The benefits of education for young women are numerous and this is one of the first studies to test the effect of education on HIV risk for young women."

The study is being conducted in partnership with the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit (RHRU) and the Agincourt Health and Population Unit (AHPU), both of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Catherine MacPhail, Ph.D., from the RHRU and Dr. Kathleen Kahn, from the AHPU are co-investigators on the study. "The RHRU is excited to be collaborating with UNC-Chapel Hill and AHPU on such an innovative HIV prevention program addressing risk among the most vulnerable South African population," said MacPhail. "There is a need for effective HIV prevention initiatives and we hope that this project will make a significant contribution to future HIV prevention strategies."

For more information, go to http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/grants.php?show=166 

Carolina Population Center contact: Lori Delaney, (919) 966-4562, lori_delaney@unc.edu

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467, rjdubose@email.unc.edu

News Services contact: Patric Lane, (919) 962-8596, patric_lane@unc.edu

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