Background: We evaluated the effect of HIV antibody testing on sexual behavior and communication with sexual partners about AIDS risk among heterosexual adults at a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases.
Methods: We randomized 186 subjects to receive either AIDS education alone (the control group) or AIDS education, an HIV antibody test, and the test results (the intervention group). These subjects were then followed up 8 weeks later.
Results: At follow-up, mean number of sexual partners decreased, but not differently between groups. However, compared with controls, HIV antibody test intervention subjects, all of whom tested negative, questioned their most recent sexual partner more about HIV antibody status (P less than 0.01), worried more about getting AIDS (P less than 0.03), and tended to use a condom more often with their last sexual partner (P = 0.05): 40% of intervention subjects vs 20% of controls used condoms, avoided genital intercourse, or knew their last partner had a negative HIV antibody test (P less than 0.005).
Conclusion: HIV antibody testing combined with AIDS education increases concern about HIV and, at least in the short term, may promote safer sexual behaviors. Additional strategies will be necessary if behaviors risky for HIV transmission are to be further reduced.