African Journal of AIDS Research

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The promise and limitations of cash transfer programs for HIV prevention

John Fieno, Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala


As the search for more effective HIV prevention strategies continues, increased attention is being paid to the potential role of cash transfers in prevention programming in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, studies testing the impact of both conditional and unconditional cash transfers on HIV-related behaviours and outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa have been relatively small-scale and their potential feasibility, costs and benefits at scale, among other things, remain largely unexplored. This article examines elements of a successful cash transfer program from Latin America and discusses challenges inherent in scaling-up such programs. The authors attempt a cost simulation of a cash transfer program for HIV prevention in South Africa comparing its cost and relative effectiveness – in number of HIV infections averted – against other prevention interventions. If a cash transfer program were to be taken to scale, the intervention would not have a substantial effect on decreasing the force of the epidemic in middle- and low-income countries. The integration of cash transfer programs into other sectors and linking them to a broader objective such as girls’ educational attainment may be one way of addressing doubts raised by the authors regarding their value for HIV prevention.

Keywords: cash transfers, cost-effectiveness, HIV/AIDS, HIV prevention, sub-Saharan Africa

African Journal of AIDS Research 2014, 13(2): 153–160
AJOL African Journals Online