The effect of financial incentives on viral load suppression and engagement in care often continues after such payments end, a U.S. analysis published in Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes showed.
The parent HPTN 065 study had found a 3.8% increase in viral suppression rates at study sites -- 20 in the Bronx, New York, and 17 in Washington, D.C., encompassing nearly 52,000 patients -- that offered gift cards to those who sustained viral suppression for three months compared to sites that did not provide such an incentive. Nine months after that intervention was discontinued, sites that had provided the cards still saw a 2.7% higher viral suppression rate.
Similarly, post-intervention, 7.5% more participants at the incentive sites remained in care compared to control sites, a slight drop from the 8.7% increase during the intervention. Qualitative interviews showed emotional benefits for both providers and patients when gift cards were provided.
The goal of incentive programs such as this is to help participants develop habits that will continue in the absence of the incentives, study authors explained. The study's findings are important for policy makers and funders, especially in the context of concerns about the sustainability of such payments, the authors concluded.