Knowledge Promotes Safe Sex

Behavioral interventions increase condom use and decrease sexually transmitted infections

(RxWiki News) Talking about and learning about how to practice safe sex can be intimidating or uncomfortable, but new studies suggest that education exercises promote safer sex and reduce disease transmission.

In a recent issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, a study found that behavioral interventions for sexually risky behaviors promoted the use of condoms as well as the reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

"Talk with sexually active teens about safe sex."

Lori Scott-Sheldon, Ph.D., of Miriam Hospital’s Behavioral and Preventative Medicine Center authored the study with colleagues at the University of Connecticut. The researchers investigated forty-two studies, analyzing the effectiveness of behavioral interventions related to HIV.

A meta-analysis assessed condom usage and biological outcomes, such as subsequent sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV detection. The research collection assessed worldwide STI reports including several at-risk population studies on sixty-seven behavioral interventions. The majority of studies took place in North America, while others in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.

Findings concluded that behavioral interventions highlighting HIV education and safe sex behaviors increased condom use and reduced STIs for up to four years afterwards. Additionally, interventions addressing social, cultural, and economic barriers influenced participants to use condoms more than those that did not.

"Examining both outcomes, and factors associated with sexual risk behaviors, should be important in determining the efficacy of behavioral interventions,” Dr. Scott-Sheldon explains. “The association between behavioral and biological outcomes is complex, since transmission of STIs depends on a number of factors, including partner type, characteristics, and perceptions of partner safety."

Participants with an STI or HIV before the program saw stronger results in STI-prevention after treatment and were less likely to acquire an STI than those without infections beforehand.

According to Dr. Scott-Sheldon, “HIV infections cost the United States billions of dollars annually. In the absence of an effective HIV vaccine, safer sexual practices and expanded prevention efforts are required to prevent new infections and reduce the burden of HIV.”

Speak with a health care professional about behavioral interventions in your area.

Review Date: 
December 19, 2011