Allison Prickett, MPH and Kathy Lancaster, MPH,  are Global Health Research Fellows at FHI.

In many HIV prevention programs, we ask young people to change the behaviors that put them at risk. And yet, if we fail to address the larger societal factors that drive their risky behavior, we do youth a great disservice.

One new study aims to reduce HIV transmission in young South African women by influencing the structural barriers to education and the negative gender norms that place young women at risk.

Working in coordination with the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), Dr. Audrey Pettifor, an assistant professor of epidemiology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently developed the HPTN study 068: “Effects of cash transfer and community mobilization for the prevention of HIV in young South African women.” The name of the study in the local language is “Swa Koteka,” which means “Yes, We Can!”

This Phase III, randomized, controlled factorial design study is being conducted in a rural area in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.  The study includes two components: (1) providing young women and their households with monthly cash transfer payments, conditional on the young woman attending school, and (2) conducting a community mobilization intervention that focuses on changing negative gender norms and HIV risk behaviors in young men ages 18 to 35—the age of most of the young women’s partners.

The study will involve about 2,900 young women and last for four years. Researchers will determine whether young women who receive cash transfers conditional on school attendance have a lower incidence of HIV infection and a lower incidence of herpes simplex virus type 2 than women who do not receive the monthly cash transfers.  Other factors to be compared among the two study groups are incidence of unprotected sex, number of sex partners, age of their male partners, age at coital debut, incidence of self-reported pregnancy, and school attendance.

Read more about the study here.