Dr. Sandra McCoy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, has been awarded a five-year grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The award will fund McCoy’s work on financial incentives for HIV treatment adherence in Tanzania.
“We have strong pilot study data suggesting that short-term financial incentives are an effective strategy to motivate people living with HIV infection in Tanzania to stay in care and adhere to their treatment,” Dr. McCoy said.
Dr. McCoy said the financial incentive will be adjusted in the new study, with the hopes that it encourages clinic attendance and treatment adherence among patients. From here, Dr. McCoy says the research team will develop a strategy for how to best deliver the financial incentive, noting that the research team will find ways to leverage mobile banking to ensure that the program does not disrupt clinic operations.
“We will also see whether the program works using viral suppression as an objective indicator of success,” she added.
Tanzania is on the United Nations’ (UN’s) list of 30 “Fast Track” countries for ending the HIV epidemic because it has a high prevalence of HIV. The UN is prioritizing investments in Fast Track countries because together they are home to 89 percent of new HIV infections worldwide.
“One of the goals of the Fast Track program is to ensure that people living with HIV infection are on treatment and have suppressed viral loads, the goal of our new study,” said Dr. McCoy.
According to Dr. McCoy, treatment extends the length and improve the quality of someone’s life, while also reducing infectiousness. This means that HIV treatment can prevent onward transmission.
The grant will disburse each year, totaling $2,729,000. For the first year, NIMH is awarding $612,000. Dr. McCoy said this award validates that there is a commitment to developing interventions for people with HIV infection in order to control the global epidemic.
The UC Berkeley School of Public Health research team includes Dr. Nicholas Jewell, professor of biostatistics and statistics; Dr. William Dow, professor of health policy and management; and Dr. Nancy Padian, professor of epidemiology.