Black women who participated in an intervention to reduce HIV risk were less likely to have had unprotected sex at a six-month follow-up relative to a comparison group, according to a study led by Dr. Bradley O. Boekeloo, director of the UMD-Prevention Research Center and a University of Maryland School of Public Health Professor.
African American/Black women have higher rates of HIV infection relative to White and Hispanic women. In this study, a diverse sample of Black women at 10 program sites either received an HIV prevention intervention that combined two previous intervention programs, ‘‘Coping with Work and Family Stress’’ (CWFS) and ‘‘Hip Hop 2 Prevent Substance Abuse and HIV’’(H2P), or served as a control group. Study participants completed surveys as to their sexual behavior and injection drug use, among other questions, at baseline, immediately after intervention, and at a six-month follow-up visit.
The CWFS intervention is designed to teach participants coping strategies that result in changes in risk and protective behaviors; study participants received 12 biweekly sessions and a two-day overnight intervention. H2P provides prevention approaches that incorporate elements of popular culture to enhance their effectiveness at helping individuals choose healthy lifestyles and prevent substance abuse and HIV. Participants in this study engaged in small group discussions and hands-on activities related to prevention of substance abuse and psychological symptoms. The adapted CWFS and H2P approach for reducing HIV risk among Black women used in this study was titled: Substance Abuse and HIV Integrated Preventive Services (SHIPS).
The study, published in AIDS and Behavior, found less unprotected sex in the comparison group immediately posttest, but the SHIPS intervention participants had less unprotected sex at six months, which suggests that an HIV risk reduction intervention tailored to address Black women’s socio-cultural stress and enhance their coping skills may reduce likelihood of unprotected sex on a longer-term basis.
“As Black women have a higher risk of contracting HIV than many other groups, it is important that HIV prevention interventions are designed to address the needs of this group,” said Dr. Boekeloo, professor in the department of behavioral and community health.
Future phases of the evaluation will examine these mechanisms for sexual risk reduction. Also, additional follow-up studies will address whether SHIPS had its intended impact on HIV risk due to substance use. Future studies could examine whether these study findings generalize to women from other race/ethnicities.