The Prevention News Update, a digital newsletter from the NationalPrevention Information Network and the Center for Disease Control (CDC),featured CUSSW’s Social Intervention Group’s (SIG) recent findings inits June 3rd edition. SIG’s article, “The Efficacy of aRelationship-Based HIV/STD Prevention Program for Heterosexual Couples,”was highlighted. Previously published in The American Journal of PublicHealth, the article detailed SIG’s success at decreasing risk behaviors using breakthrough techniques aimed at heterosexual couples.

Despite the current intervention methods available, the rate of heterosexually transmitted HIV infection in the United States has not declined, particularly among African-American and Latina women. This fact was a catalyst for the SIG study, entitled Project Connect. At the heart of Project Connect was the notion that couple-oriented prevention models will be most powerful if they are sensitive to the context of relationship dynamics and couple communication patterns. The goal was to empower the women in these relationships to initiate and sustain condom use with their long-term intimate partners.

Using women and their intimate partners recruited from hospital outpatient clinics in Bronx, New York, Project Connect measured the effectiveness of six installments of HIV/STD relationship-based interventions. Did the intervention sessions play a role in increasing a couple’s condom use, decreasing STD transmission and reducing the number of sexual partners? The study found that couple-oriented intervention, using suggestions tailored to the realities of a couple’s communication dynamics, made a difference. Whether the woman attended the six intervention sessions alone or with her partner, the rate of unprotected sex dropped, and by extension so did the couple’s overall risk of HIV/STD infection.

Project Connect’s findings lay important groundwork. The results make a persuasive argument for widespread implementation of relationship-basedHIV/STD interventions in primary care settings for couples at an elevated risk for HIV/STD transmission. The study supports the idea that not only is this relationship-based approach feasible but effective and stands to have far-reaching public health implications.

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