Behavioral responses to HIV self-testing technologies in Kenya


PSTC Seminar Room, Mencoff Hall 205

Harsha Thirumurthy, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Despite the scale-up of HIV services in sub-Saharan Africa, efforts to end the HIV epidemic have fallen short with exceptionally high incidence among adolescent girls and young women and limited coverage of HIV services among priority populations. This study uses a cluster randomized trial design to assess the potential for HIV self-testing -- a testing technology endorsed by WHO -- to facilitate HIV testing within sexual networks and prevent new infections among women in western Kenya who are at high risk of acquiring of HIV. Participants in intervention clusters received access to multiple HIV self-tests over a period of 18 months while those in control clusters had access to standard HIV testing services. We assessed the effect of the intervention on a wide range of outcomes including knowledge of partner status, sexual behavior, and HIV incidence. We also examine the intervention’s effects on decision-making in transactional sex encounters.

Harsha Thirumurthy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also Co-Director of the Penn Development Research Initiative and a Research Associate at the Penn Population Studies Center. Dr. Thirumurthy’s interests lie at the intersection of economics and public health. A major goal of his research is to use insights from economics and psychology to design and evaluate interventions to improve health outcomes in low-income settings. He has led numerous randomized trials of behavioral interventions to promote health, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2020, Dr. Thirumurthy co-founded the Indlela nudge unit, a behavioral economics research and capacity building initiative in South Africa.

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