Boys aged between 12-14 years old showed improved knowledge and attitudes about sexual risk after a preventive intervention, compared to girls of the same age, according to a study recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting. However, the positive effects waned after twelve months.
"We know that nearly half of high school students in the U.S. have had sexual intercourse and one third did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter," said Laurie J. Bauman, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and director, Preventive Intervention Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director of research, Montefiore School Health Program. "Previous interventions have been tested to reduce risk, but have typically targeted older youth and have shown mixed results. Our study investigated the effects of an intensive theory-driven intervention designed to prevent sexual risk behavior in young adolescents."
A total of 400 Bronx-based adolescent patients from Montefiore were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups. Both groups received a 14 session intervention over a seven week period. The intervention group, called Project Prepared, did interactive exercises that addressed risk behavior, abstinence, HIV/STI knowledge, correct condom use, peer pressure and understanding relationships. The control group, called TEEN, did not receive this sexual risk reduction content, instead receiving peer counseling and education about self-esteem, communication and mental health.
Data were collected at baseline and six and twelve months later. Analyses show that there were no significant differences between the groups at baseline, but six months post-baseline boys who were randomized to Project Prepared had improved HIV knowledge and improved abstinence self-efficacy compared to boys who were randomized to the TEEN intervention. However, 12 months post-baseline the effects had diminished. Interestingly, girls showed no benefit from the intervention.
"Further study is needed to determine why the intervention wasn't effective for girls, but anecdotally, we have heard that many girls believe if a condom is used during sexual intercourse, the partner doesn't believe she is 'the one,'" said Dr. Bauman. "Ongoing intervention, education, and developmentally-appropriate guidance are required to maintain the positive impact that can be achieved for boys and support both boys and girls through different situations over time."
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