Best HIV prevention programs build skills: review


HIV prevention programsIt takes more than just passing along good information to stop the spread of HIV, a new US-government-backed study on HIV/AIDS prevention programs has found.

It takes "enhanced education, where you actually build their skills and don't just give them information," said lead author Cynthia Lyles of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta in a statement.

To help arm local health agencies with the most effective HIV prevention programs, Lyles and colleagues examined 100 HIV behavioral intervention programs developed and tested between 2000 and 2004. Their findings appear in January's American Journal of Public Health.

They identified 18 programs that seem to have a significant effect on reducing HIV risk behavior and that could be adopted by local agencies and funded by the federal government.

Lyles and colleagues say the "best of" programs tend to share one thing in common -- they not only teach people about HIV and AIDS but also help them learn how to avoid falling into the trap of risky sex and what to do if they get in a high-risk situation. This is often accomplished through role-playing.

Other key components of effective HIV prevention programs include instruction on how to use a male or female condom properly and how to communicate better with others, including negotiation and assertiveness training.

"Most importantly, many of these newly identified efficacious interventions targeted populations disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and in need of effective prevention tools," Lyles and colleagues write.

"However, important gaps still exist."

Lyles and colleagues point out that their government-backed review did not consider the value of needle-exchange programs, which provide clean needles to IV drug addicts, because these programs are not eligible for federal funding, despite evidence that they are effective.

"We were basically trying to target the prevention-providers that are looking to the CDC for funding," Lyles said. "They can decide if one of these is best suited for them."

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, January 2007.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters

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