A nationwide study being launched in six U.S. cities is designed to answer one of the major unknowns of the AIDS epidemic: What type of one-on-one counseling is most effective in changing high-risk behavior to prevent HIV infection?
The study is one of the first large-scale research projects to focus on this question. Conducted by the HIV Network for Prevention Trials and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it is being coordinated by a national team headed by AIDS researchers in San Francisco and New York.
"HIV prevention counseling programs have been widespread since 1985. A few studies have evaluated their impact, but none has directly compared different approaches. Our goal is to determine the most effective prevention counseling program, so in the future resources can be put to the best use," said Patrick Barresi, MPH, project coordinator and associate specialist in the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at the University of California San Francisco.
Project co-chairs are Thomas Coates, PhD, executive director of the UCSF AIDS Research Institute and director of UCSF CAPS; Margaret Chesney, PhD, UCSF professor of medicine and co-director of UCSF CAPS; and Beryl Koblin, PhD, associate member, laboratory of epidemiology, New York Blood Center.
The study, named EXPLORE, will compare two behavior interventions: standard HIV risk reduction counseling based on a research model called Project Respect that was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a client-centered counseling approach developed by Coates, Chesney, and Barresi of UCSF.
Study volunteers currently are being recruited in Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle through local health centers and departments. Participants must be men who have sex with men, are HIV-negative, are at least 16 years old, and have been sexually active within the past 12 months.