How low-cost interventions can improve the welfare of women living with HIV

Posted on: 06 December 2021

Trinity research conducted in HIV clinics in Uganda sheds new light on how low-cost interventions can improve the welfare of women living with HIV. 

This study examined the impact of three separate interventions aimed at providing information on the importance of nutrition, and at inspiring women to improve their outcomes in a sustainable way, via peer learning and role models. The first intervention was a standard nutritional information campaign involving the distribution of posters and flyers, while the second was based on cookery demonstrations on how to produce locally sourced home-made nutritious food. The third intervention addressed the stigma associated with the disease. 

The researchers found that providing information on nutrition led to an improvement in nutritional intake and overall health. However, participants exposed to the cookery demonstrations experienced significant increases in overall income as they worked more days in self-employment and had higher levels of productivity. The role model intervention inspired participants to take control of their lives. 

Professor Gaia Narciso, Associate Professor in Economics, one of the researchers working on the project commented: 

“With widespread access to antiretroviral treatment across the developing world, individuals living with HIV have the opportunity to live full and active lives. Yet, HIV-positive individuals face two main obstacles. The first one relates to the body. A poor diet can have adverse effects on the immune system of children and adults living with HIV. The second obstacle relates to the mind. The stigma associated with HIV may prevent individuals from testing, disclosing their HIV status or achieving their goals in life. This project explores ways to improve the welfare of women living with HIV.”

“In the role model intervention, participants watched short videos of HIV-positive women who run successful enterprises. The aim of the role model intervention is to affect how discriminated individuals see themselves and their beliefs about what they can achieve. We found that exposure to the role models intervention increases the probability of running a business and leads to higher incomes from livestock and non-agricultural enterprises. The role models inspired participants but also provided a training function: our results show that the women took on the specific advice for running a business provided by the role models.”

“Our findings suggest that while information is important, participatory information interventions, such as the cookery demonstrations and the role models videos, may also inspire participants to take control of their lives, become more ambitious and invest in income-earning activities. As such, these types of interventions have the potential to have longer-term effects on participants’ welfare.”

The study was conducted by researchers based in the Trinity IMpact Evaluation Unit (TIME), a research centre in the Department of Economics. TIME brings together researchers, development practitioners, and policy makers to investigate the impact and understand the underlying mechanisms of social projects and investments. 

Professor in Economics, Carol Newman, co-founder of TIME and researcher on the Ugandan project added:

“Today, on World Aids day, we have the opportunity to highlight the continued prevalence of HIV and the continued impact that it has globally. There are almost 28 million people living with HIV around the world, two thirds of whom are in Sub-Saharan Africa. While anti-retroviral treatment allow those living with HIV to live full and active lives, there continue to be barriers that prevent people from doing so. Our work in Uganda allowed us to investigate two of those barriers, poor nutrition and stigma associated with the disease, and how low cost interventions can work to alleviate those barriers. This is an excellent example of how the research conducted by the Trinity Impact Evaluation Unit contributes to improving people’s lives, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The research, was published in the Journal of Development Economics, earlier this year. Read the full paper, ‘Body and mind: Experimental evidence from women living with HIV’ here:

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