Background: Young people experiencing homelessness have alarmingly high rates of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, which is associated with sexual risk behaviors such as unprotected sex, trading sex, and sex with multiple casual partners. Few risk reduction programs for this population have been developed and rigorously evaluated, particularly those that address both of these interrelated behaviors, use a collaborative and non-judgmental approach, and are feasible to deliver in settings where homeless young people seek services. This paper describes the protocol of a study evaluating a four-session Motivational Interviewing (MI)-based group risk reduction intervention for this population. The protocol has been shown to be efficacious in pilot work over 3 months with 200 homeless young adults . The current study seeks to refine the intervention protocol and evaluate the program on a larger scale.
Methods/design: In a cluster-cross-over randomized controlled trial, 18-25 year olds will receive the AWARE risk reduction program (n = 200) or standard care (n = 200) at one of three drop-in centers serving homeless youth in the Los Angeles area. We will evaluate intervention effects on primary outcomes of AOD use and sexual risk behavior, as well as secondary outcomes of health-related quality of life and social stability, over a 12-month period.
Discussion: This project has the potential to fill a significant gap in prevention services by demonstrating that a brief intervention, feasible to deliver within settings where young people experiencing homelessness typically seeks services, can significantly reduce the interrelated problems of AOD use and sexual risk behavior. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03735784. Registered November 18, 2018, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/record/NCT03735784 (retrospectively registered).
Keywords: Homeless; Intervention; Motivational interviewing; Substance use; Unprotected sex; Young adults.