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Risking it all for love? Resetting beliefs about HIV risk among low-income South African teens

S Datta

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Research suggests that the much higher HIV prevalence among young women in sub-Saharan Africa than among males of their age cohort is linked to the high prevalence of age-disparate sexual partnerships, and that incorrect beliefs about the relationship between age and HIV-risk are partly responsible. We report the results of an experiment that tests whether a simple, computer-based “HIV risk game” leads to better understanding of the relationship between HIV-risk and age among low-income South African adolescents than a version of the traditional “brochure approach” to dispensing information does. Our results are striking. The randomly assigned treatment group, which receives repeated doses of information about the link between age and HIV-risk as feedback to their own responses to simple questions about relative HIV-risk, is significantly more likely to correctly identify which of a pair of hypothetical men or women of different ages is more likely to have HIV than the control group. Subjects in the treatment group answer, on average, 1.65 times as many questions about HIV risk and age correctly as those in the control group. We also find that subjects’ (particularly female subjects’) beliefs about HIV risk among women are less accurate than their beliefs about HIV risk among men. Finally, a follow-up survey with no significant difference in attrition rates between those in the treatment and control groups, shows substantially higher information retention among treatment subjects than among control subjects.


Integrating a Parenting Intervention With Routine Primary Health Care: A Cluster Randomized Trial

SM Chang

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OBJECTIVE: More than 200 million children globally do not attain their developmental potential. We hypothesized that a parent training program could be integrated into primary health center visits and benefit child development. METHODS: We conducted a cluster randomized trial in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Antigua, and St Lucia). Fifteen centers were randomly assigned to the control (n = 250 mother-child pairs) and 14 to the intervention (n = 251 mother-child pairs) groups. Participants were recruited at the 6- to 8-week child health visit. The intervention used group delivery at 5 routine visits from age 3 to 18 months and comprised short films of child development messages, which were shown in the waiting area; discussion and demonstration led by community health workers; and mothers’ practice of activities. Nurses distributed message cards and a few play materials. Primary outcomes were child cognition, language, and hand-eye coordination and secondary outcomes were caregiver knowledge, practices, maternal depression, and child growth, measured after the 18-month visit. RESULTS: Eight-five percent of enrolled children were tested (control = 210, intervention = 216). Loss did not differ by group. Multilevel analyses showed significant benefits for cognitive development (3.09 points; 95% confidence interval: 1.31 to 4.87 points; effect size: 0.3 SDs). There were no other child benefits. There was a significant benefit to parenting knowledge (treatment effect: 1.59; 95% confidence interval: 1.01 to 2.17; effect size: 0.4). CONCLUSIONS: An innovative parenting intervention, requiring no additional clinic staff or mothers’ time, was integrated into health services, with benefits to child cognitive development and parent knowledge. This is a promising strategy that merits further evaluation at scale.