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New findings from rigorous evaluations show some very encouraging results in HIV prevention, as Nancy Birdsall noted in yesterday's blog post: girls who are told that older men are more likely to be HIV- positive tend to avoid contact with them; when given free school uniforms, girls are more likely to stay in school and less likely to become pregnant; a curriculum that includes debates and essay-writing about preventing HIV increases condom use but not sexual activity. So reported Celia Dugger in the New York Times, highlighting recent research by Michael Kremer, Esther Duflo and others affiliated with MIT's Poverty Action Lab.

It's not just the good news that's worth paying attention to, but the good quality of the information, which comes from well designed evaluations. As Dugger writes:

Such stringent studies of AIDS-prevention programs are rare and important, given the life-and-death stakes and the growing amounts donors are devoting to AIDS prevention.

This research represents a very positive development because it helps donors spend well, but perhaps more importantly because it contributes to what is so desperately needed in the field of HIV prevention: the evidence on which to form sound technical consensus about what works. We found in case after case in our book, Millions Saved, that a strong technical consensus was essential to moving from money and good will alone to a sustained and successful global health program that had genuine, measurable impact. Getting to that technical consensus means breaking through polarized positions, taking an open-minded view of an accumulating body of evidence from research like this, and discussing and debating the implications for program strategy.

Hats off to the Partnership for Child Development, a London-based group that provided funding for the study -- $1,000,000 to answer the $64,000,000 questions -- and to researchers who figured out clever ways to do it.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.