Providing voucher incentives can increase key rates of engagement into HIV care among injection drug users (IDUs) living with the virus, according to a small pilot study in India, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers recruited 120 HIV-positive IDUs in Chennai, India, between 2009 and 2010 and randomized them to either receive incentives for engagement in care or to serve as part of a control group.

The incentives amounted to vouchers worth about $4 to $8 that could be used for food or household items. They were provided when participants in the incentive arm attended monthly checkups, began taking antiretrovirals (ARVs) and achieved a fully suppressed viral load. While those in the control arm did not receive such incentives, they did have the chance to win vouchers as a part of a larger pool.

Compared with those in the control group, the members of the incentive group were significantly more likely to link to HIV care and to start ARVs sooner. Out of those in the study who received care at an ARV center, 45 percent in the incentive group started treatment compared with 27 percent of the control group. Vouchers were linked to a 2.93-fold increased likelihood of beginning treatment. Those in the incentive group had a median of eight monthly follow-up appointments in the yearlong study, compared with only four in the control group.

However, there was no association between vouchers and reaching a suppressed viral load: About a third of each study arm did so. The researchers state that this warrants future study.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.