Increasing rates of preventable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the US pose substantial burdens to health and well-being.
To update evidence for the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on effectiveness of behavioral counseling interventions for preventing STIs.
Studies from the previous USPSTF review (2014); literature published January 2013 through May 31, 2019, in MEDLINE, PubMed (for publisher-supplied records only), PsycINFO, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Ongoing surveillance through May 22, 2020.
Good- and fair-quality randomized and nonrandomized controlled intervention studies of behavioral counseling interventions for adolescents and adults conducted in primary care settings were included. Studies with active comparators only or limited to individuals requiring specialist care for STI risk-related comorbidities were excluded.
Dual risk of bias assessment, with inconsistent ratings adjudicated by a third team member. Study data were abstracted into prespecified forms. Pooled odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using the DerSimonian and Laird method or the restricted maximum likelihood method with Knapp-Hartung adjustment.
Differences in STI diagnoses, self-reported condom use, and self-reported unprotected sex at 3 months or more after baseline.
The review included 37 randomized trials and 2 nonrandomized controlled intervention studies (N = 65 888; 13 good-quality, 26 fair-quality) recruited from primary care settings in the US. Study populations were composed predominantly of heterosexual adolescents and young adults (12 to 25 years), females, and racial and ethnic minorities at increased risk for STIs. Nineteen trials (n = 52 072) reported STI diagnoses as outcomes (3 to 17 months’ follow-up); intervention was associated with reduced STI incidence (OR, 0.66 [95% CI, 0.54-0.81; I2 = 74%]). Absolute differences in STI acquisition between groups varied widely depending on baseline population STI risk and intervention effectiveness, ranging from 19% fewer to 4% more people acquiring STI. Thirty-four trials (n = 21 417) reported behavioral change outcomes. Interventions were associated with self-reported behavioral change (eg, increased condom use) that reduce STI risk (OR, 1.31 [95% CI, 1.10-1.56; I2 = 40%, n = 5253). There was limited evidence on persistence of intervention effects beyond 1 year. No harms were identified in 7 studies (n = 3458) reporting adverse outcomes.
Behavioral counseling interventions for individuals seeking primary health care were associated with reduced incidence of STIs. Group or individual counseling sessions lasting more than 2 hours were associated with larger reductions in STI incidence, and interventions of shorter duration also were associated with STI prevention, although evidence was limited on whether the STI reductions associated with these interventions persisted beyond 1 year.