A Pilot Randomized Trial Of Incentive Strategies To Promote HIV Retesting In Rural Uganda

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Retesting for HIV is critical to identifying newly-infected persons and reinforcing prevention efforts among at-risk adults. Incentives can increase one-time HIV testing, but their role in promoting retesting is unknown. We sought to test feasibility and acceptability of incentive strategies, including commitment contracts, to promote HIV retesting among at-risk adults in rural Uganda.

Methods: At-risk HIV-negative adults were enrolled in a pilot trial assessing feasibility and acceptability of incentive strategies to promote HIV retesting three months after enrollment. Participants were randomized (1:1:3) to: 1) no incentive; 2) standard cash incentive (~US$4); and 3) commitment contract: participants could voluntarily make a low- or high-value deposit that would be returned with added interest (totaling ~US$4 including the deposit) upon retesting or lost if participants failed to retest. Contracts sought to promote retesting by leveraging loss aversion and addressing present bias via pre-commitment. Outcomes included acceptability of trial enrollment, contract feasibility (proportion of participants making deposits), and HIV retesting uptake.

Results: Of 130 HIV-negative eligible adults, 123 (95%) enrolled and were randomized: 74 (60%) to commitment contracts, 25 (20%) to standard incentives, and 24 (20%) to no incentive. Of contract participants, 69 (93%) made deposits. Overall, 93 (76%) participants retested for HIV: uptake was highest in the standard incentive group (22/25 [88%]) and lowest in high-value contract (26/36 [72%]) and no incentive (17/24 [71%]) groups.

Conclusion: In a randomized trial of strategies to promote HIV retesting among at-risk adults in Uganda, incentive strategies, including commitment contracts, were feasible and had high acceptability. Our findings suggest use of incentives for HIV retesting merits further comparison in a larger trial.