Background: Despite advances in prevention and treatment, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remain an important cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States.
Purpose: To systematically review the evidence for behavioral counseling interventions to prevent STIs in adolescents and adults (nonpregnant and pregnant).
Data Sources: English-language articles in MEDLINE, PsycINFO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Prevention Synthesis Research Project database, and Cochrane databases (1988 through December 2007), supplemented with expert recommendations and the bibliographies of previous systematic reviews.
Study Selection: Reviewers included 21 articles representing 15 fair- or good-quality randomized, controlled trials that evaluated behavioral counseling interventions feasible in primary care and 1 fair-quality and 1 good-quality controlled trial with study samples representative of primary care populations in English-speaking countries. Comparative effectiveness trials that did not include a true control group were excluded.
Data Extraction: Investigators abstracted, critically appraised, and synthesized 21 articles that met inclusion criteria.
Data Synthesis: Most evidence suggests a modest reduction in STIs at 12 months among high-risk adults receiving multiple intervention sessions and among sexually active adolescents. Evidence also suggested that these interventions increase adherence to treatment recommendations for women in STI clinics and general contraceptive use in male adolescents and decrease nonsexual risky behavior and pregnancy in sexually active female adolescents. No evidence of substantial behavioral or biological harms for risk reduction counseling was found.
Limitation: Significant clinical heterogeneity in study populations, interventions, and measurement of outcomes limited the reviewers' ability to meta-analyze trial results and to suggest important intervention components.
Conclusion: Good-quality evidence suggests that behavioral counseling interventions with multiple sessions conducted in STI clinics and primary care effectively reduces STI incidence in â€œat-riskâ€ adult and adolescent populations. Additional trial evidence is needed for both lower-intensity behavioral counseling interventions and lower-risk patient populations.