The Impact of Public Testing for Human Immunodeficiency Virus
In this paper, we estimate the behavioral responses by individuals to the type of information-intervention a public human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing program would typify. A unique feature of the data we use is that the survey itself altered the allocation of information held by respondents by administrating a blood test for HIV as part of a longitudinal survey. Our framework for the demand for information on HIV implies that because only individuals who are surprised by the results of the intervention respond to it, in our case low-risk individuals who test HIV-positive or high-risk individuals who test HIV-negative, an information-intervention of this type may have surprising effects. Our framework also implies that looking just at the aggregate effects of an HIV testing program is a misleading indicator of the behavioral responsiveness of the average individual to the information intervention. We find that although the aggregate effect of the testing program is quite small, the effects disaggregated by private beliefs are consistent with information elastic behavior for the average individual. In addition, the subgroups of the population affected by a publicly subsidized testing program may have roughly offsetting behavioral responses, which may lead to little effect or possibly even perverse outcomes with regards to an objective of lowering disease transmission.
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