Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, report that a study of 387 HIV-positive adults shows that one year after receiving behavioral counseling about risky sex, unsafe sex by the study participants was reduced by about two thirds, Health Behavior News Service reports. In the four months prior to any behavioral counseling, each member of the group reported engaging in an average of 14 unprotected sex acts with HIV-negative partners or those who did not know their serostatus. A year after counseling, that average dropped to four incidences of unprotected sex during a four-month period.
Three different counseling interventions were used in the study. One group participated in a broad counseling session that talked about condom use, negotiating safer-sex practices, and telling their partners about their HIV infection. A second group participated in a more targeted session that addressed only issues directly brought up by the study subjects. The third approach was to offer a single intensive counseling session followed by two shorter follow-up sessions. All three approaches produced the same average reduction in incidences of risky sex.
"Vaccines to protect against infections with HIV remain elusive, and behavioral interventions continue to be the best hope for slowing the AIDS pandemic," said lead researcher Thomas Patterson. "Although it is impossible to estimate the number of new infections averted by our intervention, we assert that prevention success even in small numbers is significant in terms of reduced human suffering."