Publication Title: Lancet
Abstract: Lack of education and an economic dependence on men are often suggested as important risk factors for HIV infection in women. We assessed the efficacy of a cash transfer programme to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections in young women. In this cluster randomised trial, never-married women aged 13–22 years were recruited from 176 enumeration areas in the Zomba district of Malawi and randomly assigned with computer-generated random numbers by enumeration area (1:1) to receive cash payments (intervention group) or nothing (control group). Intervention enumeration areas were further randomly assigned with computer-generated random numbers to conditional (school attendance required to receive payment) and unconditional (no requirements to receive payment) groups. Participants in both intervention groups were randomly assigned by a lottery to receive monthly payments ranging from US$1 to $5, while their parents were independently assigned with computer-generated random numbers to receive $4–10. Behavioural risk assessments were done at baseline and 12 months; serology was tested at 18 months. Participants were not masked to treatment status but counsellors doing the serologic testing were. The primary outcomes were prevalence of HIV and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) at 18 months and were assessed by intention-to-treat analyses. Cash transfer programmes can reduce HIV and HSV-2 infections in adolescent schoolgirls in low- income settings. Structural interventions that do not directly target sexual behaviour change can be important components of HIV prevention strategies.