Counseling During Drug Addiction Treatment Reduces Unsafe Sexual Behavior Among People At Risk of HIV, Study Finds
Counseling about sexual behavior during drug addiction treatment could help reduce unsafe sexual behavior among people at risk of HIV in Russia, according to a study recently published in the journal Addiction, ANI/New Kerala reports. According to ANI/New Kerala, the researchers focused on "substance-dependent" individuals in Russia because alcohol use is highly pervasive in the country, and it has been linked with risky sexual behavior.
For the study, Jeffrey Samet -- chief of general internal medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center -- and colleagues compared the current method used to reduce unsafe sexual behavior in standard addiction treatment programs in the country with the Russian Partnership To Reduce the Epidemic via Engagement in Narcology Treatment, or PREVENT, intervention program. People living with or without HIV were randomly assigned either to the PREVENT or standard program. PREVENT sessions took place at a hospital in Russia and involved obtaining HIV test results, discussions of personal risk and the creation of a behavioral change plan. In addition, researchers explained to the PREVENT participants the risk reduction plan to promote safer sex, which includes condom use, sex negotiation skills, development of positive attitudes regarding safer sex, and emphasizing the role of alcohol and drugs in impairing decisions. Participants in the standard program received HIV testing but did not receive counseling. People who tested positive in the standard program received a 20-minute HIV post-test counseling session that included creating risk reduction goals and a referral to an HIV care program. All participants were given condoms when leaving the hospital, according to ANI/New Kerala.
The researchers contacted the participants by phone for three months and at six months to assess their personal long-term risk reduction goals and plans, ANI/New Kerala reports. The researchers found that after six months, participants in the PREVENT program had a higher percentage of safer sex, compared with the participants in the standard treatment program. "Both control and intervention groups had improvements in the percentage of safe[r]-sex occurrences, restraining from unprotected sex and increasing condom use between baseline and the three month follow-up," Samet said, adding, "While the intervention group maintained or improved their safe[r]-sex behaviors at the six month follow-up, the standard addiction treatment group worsened." The researchers noted that the results suggest an HIV intervention program targeting the sexual behaviors of alcohol and drug users is feasible and effective at increasing safer sex (ANI/New Kerala, 7/12).