TUESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- A couple-focused program
cut risky sexual behaviors among black American couples in which
one partner has HIV and the other is HIV-free, researchers
Researchers assigned 260 "serodiscordant" (differing in HIV
status) black couples to a program that included eight weekly
two-hour sessions that dealt with communication, problem-solving
and other interpersonal factors associated with sexual risk
Another 275 serodiscordant black couples were assigned to a
comparison group that took part in a program to increase fruit and
vegetable consumption, physical activity and adherence to medical
treatments, including HIV therapy.
At six and 12 months after the programs, the couples in the
sexual risk-reduction program reported more consistent use of
condoms than those in the comparison group (63 percent vs. 48
percent) and reported an average of 1.5 fewer acts of unprotected
At the 12-month follow-up, there was no difference between the
two groups in the cumulative incidence of sexually transmitted
diseases, however. Of the partners who were HIV-free at the start
of the study, two in the intervention group and three in the
comparison group became HIV-positive during the study.
The study, published online July 12 in advance of print
publication in the Sept. 27 issue of the
Archives of Internal Medicine, will be presented at the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria.
The rate of new HIV infections is about seven times higher among
black Americans than among whites. Blacks made up about 12 percent
of the U.S. population in 2006, but accounted for 45 percent of new
HIV infections that year. Heterosexual exposure was the most common
source of HIV infection among black women and the second most
common source among black men.
"Public health scientists have urged a shift beyond individual-level HIV interventions to prevention strategies that have an impact on social structures and context to curb the epidemic among African Americans," wrote Nabila El-Bassel, of Columbia University School of Social Work, New York City, and colleagues.
"The intervention used here, in structure and content, was relationship based and redirected the focus to changing the relationship factors that influence sexual decision making and increasing the likelihood that risk reduction will be stable over time," she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more