Background: Few cognitive-behavioral interventions have focused on preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies (UPs) in young, sexually active women in a single study. Military recruit training provides a well-defined, national, nonclinic sample in which to evaluate such an intervention.
Methods: All female Marine recruits (N=2,288) in training were approached. Of these, 2,157 (94.3%) voluntarily agreed and were randomly assigned, by platoons, to participate in cognitive-behavioral interventions to prevent STIs or UPs or to prevent physical training injuries and cancer. Participants completed self-administered questionnaires and were screened for pregnancy, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis at baseline and, on average, 1 and 14 months postintervention.
Results: A higher proportion of the control group had a postintervention STI or UP [odds ratio (OR)=1.41, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.01-1.98]. Among participants who had no history of STIs or pregnancy, but who engaged in risky sexual behaviors just before recruit training, the control group was more likely to acquire a postintervention STI (OR=3.24, CI=1.74-6.03). Among participants who were not sexually experienced at baseline, the control group was more likely to have casual (OR=2.05, 95% CI=1.04-4.08) and multiple (OR=1.87, 95% CI=1.01-3.47) sexual partners postintervention.
Conclusions: This randomized controlled trial indicates that cognitive-behavioral interventions are effective for reducing behavioral risk and preventing STIs and UPs in young, sexually active women who are not seeking health care.