Study pays people to get tested or treated for HIV/AIDS

A pilot project is giving people $10 and $15 payments as incentive to encourage them to get tested for HIV or AIDS or, for those who already know their status, to resume treatment.

Pilot project has patients in several B.C. cities getting $25 to see if it will encourage testing

The researchers say one of the primary goals of the study is to test participants — people struggling addiction health issues — for HIV/AIDS. (Associated Press)

Is $25 over two visits enough of an incentive to encourage people to get tested for HIV or AIDS or, for those who already know their status, to resume treatment?

That's the question a group of researchers with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is asking in a new study.

Researchers aim to recruit 300 people from Prince George, Victoria, Surrey and Vancouver, who have addiction health issues and may be at risk for HIV/AIDS.

"The goal is to get everybody that could be diagnosed with HIV aware of their status and get onto antiretroviral therapy, which is obviously life saving for them and also protects them from passing on the virus to loved ones or partners," said research scientist Mark Hull.

Hull said they are testing whether the incentive — $10 for the first visit and $15 for the second — helps reach people who might not otherwise engage in the health-care system.

"The thing that we've realized is, that for a lot of people, they don't know their HIV status, and this is what this project really is looking at," said Hull.

"It's taking some of the lessons that have been learned in economics and other fields of interventions and seeing what small nudges we can do to help encourage people to engage in care and look at their HIV status."

Worth the money

As for concerns about paying people to get tested and treated, Hull says it's worth the money. 

"If we look at the cost of a day of being admitted to hospital or people getting sick and falling out of work or not being able to do their jobs, the cost loss there is huge," said Hull.  

"These very small numbers would be very effective at a health-care system level, if it's shown to actually make a difference."

The study is still in the data collection phase and is expected to complete all followup visits for the pilot by the end of March 2018. 

With files from George Baker

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported there are 139 study participants and those who received payment would get $10 for two visits. In fact, 300 participants are being recruited and they will receive $10 for the first visit and $15 for the second.
    Oct 18, 2017 10:24 AM PT