Context: African American adolescent girls are at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, but interventions specifically designed for this population have not reduced HIV risk behaviors.
Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of an intervention to reduce sexual risk behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy and enhance mediators of HIV-preventive behaviors.
Design, setting, and participants: Randomized controlled trial of 522 sexually experienced African American girls aged 14 to 18 years screened from December 1996 through April 1999 at 4 community health agencies. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire and an interview, demonstrated condom application skills, and provided specimens for STD testing. Outcome assessments were made at 6- and 12-month follow-up.
Intervention: All participants received four 4-hour group sessions. The intervention emphasized ethnic and gender pride, HIV knowledge, communication, condom use skills, and healthy relationships. The comparison condition emphasized exercise and nutrition.
Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was consistent condom use, defined as condom use during every episode of vaginal intercourse; other outcome measures were sexual behaviors, observed condom application skills, incident STD infection, self-reported pregnancy, and mediators of HIV-preventive behaviors.
Results: Relative to the comparison condition, participants in the intervention reported using condoms more consistently in the 30 days preceding the 6-month assessment (unadjusted analysis, intervention, 75.3% vs comparison, 58.2%) and the 12-month assessment (unadjusted analysis, intervention, 73.3% vs comparison, 56.5%) and over the entire 12-month period (adjusted odds ratio, 2.01; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.28-3.17; P =.003). Participants in the intervention reported using condoms more consistently in the 6 months preceding the 6-month assessment (unadjusted analysis, intervention, 61.3% vs comparison, 42.6%), at the 12-month assessment (unadjusted analysis, intervention, 58.1% vs comparison, 45.3%), and over the entire 12-month period (adjusted odds ratio, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.51-3.50; P<.001). Using generalized estimating equation analyses over the 12-month follow-up, adolescents in the intervention were more likely to use a condom at last intercourse, less likely to have a new vaginal sex partner in the past 30 days, and more likely to apply condoms to sex partners and had better condom application skills, a higher percentage of condom-protected sex acts, fewer unprotected vaginal sex acts, and higher scores on measures of mediators. Promising effects were also observed for chlamydia infections and self-reported pregnancy.
Conclusion: Interventions for African American adolescent girls that are gender-tailored and culturally congruent can enhance HIV-preventive behaviors, skills, and mediators and may reduce pregnancy and chlamydia infection.