Nature, decay, and spiraling of the effects of fear-inducing arguments and HIV counseling and testing: a meta-analysis of the short- and long-term outcomes of HIV-prevention interventions

Health Psychol. 2007 Jul;26(4):496-506. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.26.4.496.


Objective: To examine the long-term efficacy of both fear-inducing arguments and HIV counseling and testing at encouraging and maintaining knowledge about HIV transmission and prevention, as well as condom use.

Design: Analyses were conducted with a sample of 150 treatment groups and 34 controls and included measures of change at an immediate follow-up and a delayed follow-up.

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measures were perceived risk of HIV infection, knowledge about HIV, and condom use.

Results: Results indicated that receiving fear-inducing arguments increased perceptions of risk at the immediate follow-up but decreased knowledge and condom use, whereas resolving fear via HIV counseling and testing decreased perceptions of risk and increased knowledge and condom use at both the immediate and delayed follow-ups. The effects on perceived risk [corrected] decreased over time, but the effects on knowledge [corrected] condom use became more pronounced.

Conclusion: Inducing fear is not an effective way to promote HIV-relevant learning or condom use either immediately following the intervention or later on. However, HIV counseling and testing can provide an outlet for HIV-related anxiety and, subsequently, gains in both knowledge and behavior change immediately and longitudinally.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Safe Sex*
  • Treatment Outcome