Washington, DC (12 June 1998)-With all of the excitement about the latest generation of AIDS drugs, it can be easy to forget that every day more people become infected with HIV. Public health officials have launched many campaigns to encourage safer sex practices, but there has been little substantive data to show whether such behavioral interventions actually work. Now, as part of a special section on AIDS in the 19 June 1998 issue of Science, investigators with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) report the results of a major HIV prevention trial involving one of the most at-risk groups: low-income women and men living in urban areas. The results of this study, the largest of its kind, suggest that behavioral interventions can indeed reduce HIV-related sexual risk in this population, at least over a one-year period.
In the United States, rates of infection and AIDS are highest among racial and ethnic minorities living in low-income, urban settings. So the NIMH Multisite HIV Prevention Trial recruited 3,700 such participants from 37 health clinics at seven sites: the Bronx and Harlem; Manhattan, Brooklyn, and northern New Jersey; Baltimore; Atlanta; Milwaukee; Los Angeles; and Orange and San Bernardino counties in California. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to attend a small-group, seven-session HIV risk reduction program; the other half attended a one-hour AIDS education session.
One year after the intervention, the people who attended the long program reported significantly fewer unprotected sexual acts, had higher levels of condom use, and were more likely to use condoms consistently. These self-reported results were backed-up by a review of the participants' clinical records, which showed that those who attended the long intervention program exhibited a lower rate of sexually transmitted disease symptoms compared to the control group.
"We think the
Contact: Diane Dondershine
American Association for the Advancement of Science