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Saving for the Future? HIV Testing and Economic Behavior

Rebecca L. Thornton, University of Michigan

Life expectancy is important for long-term planning such as savings. Because HIV is fatal and there is no cure, learning HIV results could have large effects on subjective life expectancy and subsequent savings decisions. This paper examines how learning HIV results affects economic activity two years after testing by evaluating an experiment in Malawi that randomly assigned individuals incentives to learn their HIV results. I find that HIV negatives who learned their status saved significantly more than those who did not learn their status. HIV positives who learned their status were significantly less likely to save than those who did not learn their status. There were no other significant economic effects of learning HIV results among the HIV negatives. This may be, in part, due to no persistent differences in subjective beliefs of infection between the HIV negatives who learned they were negative and those who did not.

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Presented in Session 26: Measuring behaviour change related to HIV infection