Purpose: To identify correlates of sexual risk variations among African-American adolescents, and to examine the influence of prior sexual experience on response to a HIV risk-reduction intervention.
Methods: Eight hundred seventeen African-American youth aged 13 to 16 years living in and around urban public housing in Baltimore were recruited to participate in a HIV risk-reduction intervention targeting multiple risk behaviors. An instrument designed to measure three levels of sexual risk ("abstinent," "protected sex" [having sex with a condom], and "unprotected sex" [having sex without a condom]) was administered at baseline, 6 months and 12 months postintervention. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to identify predictors of the degree of sexual risk using longitudinal data. Repeated measure analyses were conducted to assess behavioral changes over time among the three groups.
Results: Data confirmed the co-variation of sexual risk behavior and other problem behaviors among adolescents, cross-sectionally and longitudinally. After exposure to an 8-session risk-reduction intervention, youth engaging in the highest degree of sexual risk demonstrated the greatest reduction in both sexual risk and other risks. These improvements were seen at both 6 months and 12 months postintervention. Youth who were abstinent at baseline maintained the lowest levels in risk involvement throughout the study period when compared with sexually active youth. However, abstinent youth risk involvement significantly increased at 6 months and 12 months after baseline. Youth engaging in protected sex at baseline demonstrated a significant increase in non-condom use and a significant decrease in multiple risk involvement over time.
Conclusions: Results support HIV risk-reduction intervention efforts that target multiple risk behaviors. Response of adolescents to the intervention is directly related to the sexual risk behavior at baseline. These data may suggest that the response to risk behavior intervention depends in part on the risk behavior profile of the population to which it is being applied.