The Demand for and Impact of Learning HIV Results
Rebecca L. Thornton, Harvard University
It is commonly believed that HIV testing is essential for disease prevention, despite the lack of rigorous evidence. I designed a randomized experiment to evaluate the demand for learning HIV results and subsequent behavior. In the experiment, individuals in Malawi were randomly assigned monetary incentives to learn their HIV results after testing. Two months later, they were re-interviewed and given the opportunity to purchase condoms. While less than half attended clinics to learn their HIV status without any incentive, even a very small incentive significantly increased the share learning their results. Using the exogenously assigned incentives and distance from results centers as instruments for HIV knowledge, I find that HIV positives with a sexual partner who learn their status purchase significantly more condoms although the average number purchased is low. I calibrate an epidemiological model of infection that suggests that HIV testing is not as cost-effective as other prevention strategies.