News Release: Research , School of Public Health

Jul. 14,  2010

HIV/STD Intervention Program Boosts Safe Sex Behaviors Among African American Couples

News Article ImageStudy co-author Gina Wingood, ScD, MPH, Agnes Moore Faculty in HIV Research at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health

An HIV/STD intervention program tailored for heterosexual African American couples of differing HIV status (serodiscordant) resulted in a significant increase in safer sex behaviors among those couples, according to a study published in the recent online edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but account for nearly 45 percent of all new HIV infections. Efforts to curb this trend have proven less effective for African Americans than other population groups.

"As our nation strives to reduce racial disparities in HIV infection, intervention strategies require public health efforts such as couple-level interventions that address partners' social relationships and not just an individual's behavior," says study co-author Gina Wingood, ScD, MPH, Agnes Moore Faculty in HIV Research at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.

The study enrolled 535 heterosexual African American couples. Of those, 260 were randomly assigned to undergo the HIV/STD risk-reduction intervention; the other 275 participants were placed in the comparison intervention group.

The researchers assessed participants' STD status and collected self-reported sexual behavior before the study began, eight weeks after the study started, and again six and 12 months after the study ended. Both interventions were culturally based and modeled after the African concept of Eban, which symbolizes safety, security, and love within one's family and relationship space.

Wingood and team found that couples in the HIV/STD risk-reduction intervention group used condoms more frequently and consistently than couples in the health comparison intervention group. After the intervention, couples in the HIV/STD intervention group reported using condoms 72 percent of the time during sex compared to 56 percent of the time among couples in the health comparison group. In addition, 37 percent of couples in the HIV/STD intervention used condoms during all sexual intercourse compared to 27 percent of couples in the comparison group.

"HIV prevention scientists must adopt more innovative and effective strategies to reduce the burden of the HIV epidemic among African Americans, and disseminating couple-level HIV interventions may be one such strategy," says Wingood.

The study, "NIMH Multisite Eban HIV/STD Prevention Intervention for African American HIV Serodiscordant Couples: A Cluster Randomized Trial," was published in the July 12, 2010, online issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health.

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