Presentations at International AIDS Conference address HIV self-testing, economic incentives

July 28, 2015

Harsha Thirumurthy, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, gave two oral presentations at the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Vancouver, Canada, on July 20 and 21.

Dr. Harsha Thirumurthy

Dr. Harsha Thirumurthy

Thirumurthy shared new research conducted in Kenya on important HIV prevention topics, which he undertook with co-authors from UNC-Chapel Hill and the Impact Research and Development Organization in Kisumu, Kenya.

His first presentation explored the possibilities of HIV self-testing, an innovative technology that is receiving attention in the wider HIV prevention community.

The study, titled “Acceptability and feasibility of a novel approach to promote HIV testing in sexual and social networks using HIV self-tests,” found that providing multiple HIV self-tests to women in populations with high HIV incidence in Kenya was a successful way to promote HIV testing among the women’s partners. In Kenya and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, men in particular have low utilization of HIV testing.

A high proportion of women participating in the study reported giving self-tests to their sexual partners and others in their social networks, and the strategy also led to the identification of a significant number of HIV-infected adults.

Thirumurthy’s second presentation addressed economic incentives for a proven biomedical HIV prevention intervention — medical male circumcision.

A study titled “The effect of conditional economic compensation and lottery-based rewards on uptake of medical male circumcision in Kenya: a randomized trial” concluded that providing compensation in the form of food vouchers to those seeking circumcision services was effective in increasing circumcision uptake among men over a short time period.

Small economic incentives ($12.50 USD) successfully addressed barriers such as time and transportation costs, especially among men who were already contemplating circumcision. Lottery-based rewards with high-value prizes, however, did not significantly increase circumcision uptake.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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