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Community-Centered HIV-Prevention Program can Lower Rate of New Infections

Update Date: Apr 15, 2014 03:49 PM EDT

Good teamwork can lead to efficient and effective programs. In a new study, researchers examined how teamwork could help prevent the incurable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from spreading. The researchers found that when communities in Africa and Thailand work together in preventing HIV, the rate of new HIV infections dropped.

For this study, the researchers analyzed the effectiveness of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health's Project Accept, which was a trial that tested social, behavioral and structural HIV-prevention interventions used in communities. The trial was carried out by the HIV Prevention Trials Network in 34 communities from South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and also in 14 communities from Thailand. Each intervention community was matched with a control community, which did not receive any HIV-prevention interventions.

The researchers discovered that these community-based programs helped increase the number of people who got tested for HIV. Testing rates in intervention communities were 45 percent higher than the rates in control communities. The number of new infections fell by 14 percent when compared to control communities. HIV-positive individuals from intervention communities also reported having fewer sex partners when compared to HIV-positive people from the control communities. The intervention programs included mobile testing for HIV, support post-testing and real-time feedback.

"The study clearly demonstrates that high rates of testing can be achieved by going into communities and that this strategy can result in increased HIV detection, which makes referral to care possible," said Thomas Coates, Project Accept's overall principal investigator and director of UCLA's Center for World Health. "This has major public health benefit implications-not only suggesting how to link infected individuals to care, but also encouraging testing in entire communities and therefore also reducing further HIV transmission."

The study, "Effect of community-based voluntary counseling and testing on HIV incidence and social and behavioral outcomes" was published in The Lancet Global Health.

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