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HIV: Interventions to Reduce Sexual Risk Behaviors or Increase Protective Behaviors to Prevent Acquisition of HIV in Men Who Have Sex with Men – Group-Level Interventions


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 13 studies (search period 1988 - 2005).

The review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to HIV/AIDS prevention.


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Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the published evidence review pdf icon [PDF - 868 kB].

The systematic review included 12 studies that reported on 15 interventions.

  • Following intervention, there was a 27% reduction in odds for having unprotected anal intercourse (UAI)
    • • These effects were significant at both short-term (median 3 months) and long-term (median 12 months) follow-ups.
  • There was a 44% reduction in odds for receptive UAI (2 studies).
  • There was an 81% increase in odds for condom use during anal intercourse (5 studies).
  • The interventions that showed greater effectiveness in reducing UAI were delivered by MSM and included multiple sessions and skill building through role plays, live demonstrations, or practice.

Summary of Economic Evidence

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the published evidence review pdf icon [PDF - 868 kB].

The economic review included two studies that showed group-level interventions were cost saving. Estimates are reported in 2003 U.S. dollars.

  • One study compared the cost effectiveness of a safer sex lecture plus skills training intervention with that of a safer sex lecture alone. They found the skills training component had a cost savings of $9757 per discounted quality-adjusted life year (QALY).
  • Another study found that averted medical care costs were significantly higher than intervention program costs.


Based on the evidence, this finding should be applicable across a range of settings and MSM populations in the United States, assuming interventions are appropriately adapted to the needs and characteristics of the population.

Evidence Gaps

Additional research and evaluation are needed to answer the following questions and fill existing gaps in the evidence base.

  • How effective are interventions among particular groups?
    • Nonwhite MSM, and in particular, African-American and Latino populations who are disproportionately affected by HIV
    • Non–gay-identified MSM, who may have different HIV prevention needs than gay-identified men
    • MSM who are substance users
  • Given the included studies were set in locations such as gay bars, community-based organizations, health clinics, and research study sites, how effective are they in other settings (e.g., "circuit parties")?
  • What are intervention effects on health outcomes (e.g., STDs and HIV)? What are the most effective ways to measure such biological outcomes?
  • What are the minimal and optimal variables for intervention effectiveness (e.g., number of sessions, program duration, type of skills training)?
  • How have advances in technology and medicine over the past decade altered the social and behavioral landscape of the MSM community? Has commitment to reducing sex risk behaviors declined since HIV became a more manageable condition?
  • Has the Internet led to elevated levels of sex risk behavior among MSM seeking and meeting sex partners?

Study Characteristics

In the included studies, HIV behavioral interventions at the group level

  • Were designed to influence individual risk behavior by changing knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and self-efficacy in a small group setting
  • Focused on the development of skills through live demonstrations, role plays, or practice
  • Taught skills that may have included learning how to use condoms correctly, how to implement personal decisions to reduce risk, and how to negotiate safer sex effectively with partners

Following are characteristics of studies included in the reviews of HIV behavioral interventions at individual, group, and community levels.

  • Most of the included studies were conducted in the United States, though some were conducted in Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, or Canada.
  • Of the 19 included studies, 13 were conducted before 1996, the year highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) was introduced.
  • Participants were recruited in a variety of settings, including clinics, community-based organizations, and gay community venues such as bars and public cruising areas.
  • Most studies evaluated interventions with follow-ups longer than 3 months, and only two studies failed to achieve at least 80% retention.
  • The median age across all study samples was 33 years, and in the 15 studies reporting education, at least 50% of participants had some college.