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Findings released on mass media as an HIV-prevention strategy

In a study just released in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Adolescent Communication Institute (ACI) and five other universities along with a Philadelphia media development firm report that a mass media program directed to African American youth ages 14 to 18 reduced sexual risk behavior, especially among those at highest risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Other segments of the youth community displayed favorable changes in sexual beliefs and attitudes that also confer protection from STIs.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, was conducted in two regionally matched medium-sized cities in the northeast and southeast. One city received the media campaign in each region while the other served as a control. Carefully constructed messages designed on the basis of intensive research in each region were found to increase favorable attitudes toward condom use with all partners and to reduce peer pressure to initiate sex in new relationships. Reports of increased condom use however were strongest among those carrying STIs that often go undetected without biological screening. Such youth are among the most at risk for acquiring STIs and HIV.

The findings support the strategy advocated by ACI of using culturally appropriate mass media messages on popular television and radio channels to reach and help high-risk youth to avoid STIs, including HIV. Research is ongoing to determine the long-term effects of this intervention as youth age.

The study is part of a collaborative project with the NIMH Center on Mental Health Research on AIDS (Pim Brouwers, Project Officer) that is coordinated by the Adolescent Communication Institute of the APPC (Dan Romer, PI) and the following universities: Brown University (Larry Brown, PI); Emory University (Ralph DiClemente, PI); Syracuse University (Peter Vanable, PI); University of South Carolina (Robert Valois, PI), and Wayne State University (Bonita Stanton, PI). Motivational Educational Entertainment of Philadelphia (Ivan Juzang, PI) created the media program and placed the messages in the test cities.

Download an electronic version of the paper