Peer-delivered interventions reduce HIV risk behaviors among out-of-treatment drug abusers

Public Health Rep. 1998 Jun;113 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):31-41.


Objective: The purpose of this chapter is to describe the results of a randomized study (funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA]) comparing a peer-delivered enhanced intervention to the NIDA standard intervention for reducing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk behaviors.

Methods: Data come from the ongoing St. Louis Each One Teach One (EOTO) study on HIV risk behaviors among out-of-treatment crack cocaine users and injecting drug users (IDUs). The study has a randomized prospective design, and for this chapter, three risk behaviors were analyzed--the frequency of crack cocaine use and the number of sex partners and condom use over the past 30-day period. We report the level of risk at baseline and at the three-month follow-up period to determine the proportion of individuals improving or worsening based on a dichotomous outcome in which remaining at low risk or decreasing moderate or high risk behaviors is considered "improving" and increasing risk behavior or remaining at moderate or high risk is considered "worsening".

Results: Overall, 80% of the sample "improved" their crack cocaine use, meaning they maintained at low level or reduced their use. Although both the standard and enhanced intervention groups made substantial improvement in their crack cocaine use, individuals in the enhanced intervention group were statistically more likely to reduce their risk than those assigned to the standard intervention (83% vs. 75%, P < 0.05). As for the number of sex partners, 75% of the overall sample improved; that is, they reduced the number of sex partners or remained abstinent or in a one-partner relationship at baseline and follow-up. There was no statistically significant difference between the enhanced and standard groups (76% vs 73%). Stratified by gender, the results showed a trend toward improvement among women assigned to the enhanced intervention compared with those assigned to the standard. In terms of condom use, the overall sample worsened more than it improved (65% vs. 44%), and no differences were found between the enhanced and standard groups.

Conclusions: These findings show that the use of peers as role models in promoting HIV risk reduction is feasible and effective among out-of-treatment drug abusers, particularly for drug use itself. Condom use was found to be more difficult to change than other behaviors. Possible reasons for this lack of improvement and suggestions for future interventions are given.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Condoms
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / etiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Preventive Health Services
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • United States


  • Crack Cocaine