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The earliest drug prevention strategies can pay off in stemming HIV risk

August 21, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Drug prevention programs delivered as early as the first years of elementary school can have a positive effect on reducing later sexual behaviors associated with HIV/AIDS, even for the highest-risk young people. So concludes a review of six prevention intervention trials mapped out in a supplemental issue of the journal Prevention Science.

The research examined in the review was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse's (NIDA's) Prevention Research Branch. Among the aggregate findings is that interventions early in development on risk and protective factors can have an impact on an array of outcomes, sometimes including those that were not specific targets of the intervention.

As an example of one of the interventions cited in the journal issue, the Good Behavior Game reached Baltimore schoolchildren in grades 1 and 2. Its efforts to socialize children to the role of a student and thus to reduce aggressive behaviors were found later to be associated with fewer problem outcomes when the children were ages 19 to 21.

The report states that “these studies illustrate that proximal contexts of development, first the family and then the school, play major roles in childhood socialization and prevention of risk behaviors.”

Research has clearly established drug use as an important risk factor for HIV infection, for reasons ranging from its impairment of decision-making to the link between drug use and sexual behavior in high-risk groups, such as young men who have sex with other men.

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