Sexual Health news - Sexual Health and Behavior

Economic incentives may help reduce STD rates in men

A new study reveals that giving some homosexual men just under $300 is enough of an incentive to get them to commit to regular STD testing.

Investigators from Brown University, the University of California at Berkeley and Mexico's National Public Health Institute recently completed their research and published their findings in The European Journal of Health Economics. They administered questionnaires to 1,745 gay men between the ages of 18 and 25 in Mexico City.

Among the homosexual men they surveyed, more than 75 percent said that a rate of $288 a year would be a large enough incentive for them to attend monthly prevention talks, engage in testing for sexually transmitted diseases and pledge to stay STD-free with testing to verify that. Additionally, a similar participation rate was achieved among male sex workers surveyed for even less - $156 per year.

Researchers stated that they focused on men who have sex with men and male sex workers because both groups are more likely than the general population to contract HIV and other STDs. The estimated prevalence of HIV infection is about 20 percent among homosexuals and 30 percent among male sex workers.

However, the study also found that wealthier individuals and those with higher levels of education were less likely to respond to the cash incentive because they could afford to pay for testing on their own. Nearly 10 percent said they would not respond to a cash incentive at any price - and those individuals tended to be more educated and have more money than other participants.

"The incentive needs to be high enough to potentially spur meaningful behavior change, but it cannot be too high as to be considered coercive, dangerous or economically inefficient," the authors stated.

The study's authors stated that their results prove that cash incentives may be less expensive for governments trying to curb the HIV epidemic, as annual HIV therapy for infected individuals can cost as much as $7,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gay and bisexual men of all races are most severely affected by HIV. The most recent data available revealed that men who have sex with men accounted for 61 percent of all HIV infections in the U.S. and 48 percent of those living with the virus.

Worldwide, there are currently 33.4 million individuals living with HIV/AIDS.