Paying Those at Risk for HIV to Take Drugs Doesn’t Work

Paying patients in the Bronx and in Washington — where infection rates are high among poor blacks and Hispanics — up to $280 a year to take HIV medications daily improved overall adherence rates very little, a new study found.

SEATTLE — A major study testing whether Americans would take HIV drugs daily if they were paid to do so, essentially failed, scientists at an AIDS conference this week said according to a New York Times article.

Paying patients in the Bronx and in Washington — where infection rates are high among poor blacks and Hispanics — up to $280 a year to take their pills daily improved overall adherence rates very little, the study’s authors said.

The hope was that the drugs would not only improve the health of the people taking them, but help slow the spread of HIV infections. HIV patients who take their medicine regularly are about 95 percent less likely to infect others than patients who do not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only a quarter of all 1.1 million Americans with HIV are taking their drugs regularly enough to not be infectious.

Paying patients $25 to take HIV tests, and then $100 to return for the results and meet a doctor, also failed, the study found.

The failure of the cash-incentives trial was a surprise and a disappointment to scientists and advocates. It had paid out $2.8 million to 9,000 patients in 39 clinics over three years, but the clinics where money was distributed did only 5 percent better than those that did not — a statistically insignificant difference, the Times reports.

Some small clinics and those where patients had been doing poorly at the start of the study did improve as much as 13 percent, however, the Times article said.
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