A meta-analysis of the effect of HIV prevention interventions on the sex behaviors of drug users in the United States

Salaam Semaan, Don C. Des Jarlais, Ellen Sogolow, Wayne D. Johnson, Larry V. Hedges, Gilbert Ramirez, Stephen A. Flores, Lisa Norman, Michael D. Sweat, Richard Needle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined the effectiveness of 33 U.S.-based HIV intervention studies in reducing the sexual risk behaviors of drug users by reducing unprotected sex or increasing the use of male condoms. The studies, identified as of June 1998, through the HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Synthesis project, were published in 1988 or later, measured behavioral or biologic outcomes, used experimental designs or certain quasiexperimental designs, and reported sufficient data for calculating an effect size for sexual risk reduction. Of the 33 studies, 94% recruited injection drug users; 21% recruited crack users. The mean age of participants was 36 years. Almost all studies were randomized (94%), provided another HIV intervention to the comparison groups (91%), and evaluated behavioral interventions (91%). On average, interventions were conducted in 5 sessions (total, 10 hours) during 4.5 months. Interventions compared with no interventions were strong and significant (k = 3; odds ratio [OR], 0.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.43-0.85). Interventions compared with other HIV interventions showed a modest additional benefit (k = 30; OR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.81-1.03). When we extrapolated our result (an OR of 0.60) to a population with a 72% prevalence of risk behavior, the proportion of drug users who reduced their risk behaviors was 12.6% greater in the intervention groups than in the comparison groups. Our meta-analysis shows that interventions can lead to sexual risk reduction among drug users and justifies providing interventions to drug users. Developing interventions with stronger effects to further reduce sexual risk behaviors among drug users must remain a high priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S73-S93
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2002


  • AIDS
  • Drug users
  • HIV infection
  • HIV risk behavior
  • Injection drug users
  • Meta-analysis
  • Sex behavior
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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