Background: Some interventions to reduce the risk of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) that target youths have resulted in short-term increases in self-reported condom use. However, long-term intervention effects have not been assessed.
Study question: Can a theoretically and culturally based, AIDS-risk reduction intervention delivered to naturally formed peer groups increase self-reported condom use among African-American early adolescents at 6 and 12 months of follow-up?
Method: A randomized, controlled trial of a community-based intervention delivered in eight weekly sessions involved 76 naturally formed peer groups consisting of 383 (206 intervention and 177 control) African-American youths 9 to 15 years of age. A theory-based, culturally and developmentally tailored instrument that assessed perceptions, intentions, and self-reported sexual behaviors was administered to all subjects at baseline (preintervention) and 6 and 12 months later.
Results: At baseline, 36% of youths were sexually experienced, and by 12 months of follow-up, 49% were sexually experienced. Self-reported condom use rates were significantly higher among intervention than control youths (85% vs 61%; P<.05) at the 6-month follow-up. However, by 12 months, rates were no longer significantly higher among intervention youths. The intervention impact at 6 months was especially strong among boys (85% vs 57%; P<.05) and among early teens (13 to 15 years old) (95% vs 60%; P<.01). Self-reported condom use intention was also increased among intervention youths at 6 months but not at 12 months. Some perceptions were positively affected at 6 months, but the change did not persist at 12 months.
Conclusions: High rates of sexual intercourse underscore the urgent need for effective AIDS-risk reduction interventions that target low-income urban, African-American preteens and early teens. A developmentally and culturally tailored intervention based on social-cognitive theory and delivered to naturally formed peer groups recruited from community settings can increase self-reported condom use. The strong short-term improvements in behaviors and intentions followed by some relapse over longer periods argue for a strengthened program and research focus on sustainability.