Behavioral counseling for sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention is recommended for persons at risk, and the body of evidence yields numerous interventions that have STD preventive efficacy. What is needed is a review of the subset of these interventions that could be feasible in clinical settings, especially settings in STD prevention programs.
We reviewed existing systematic reviews of the literature and abstracted from them studies that fit the following criteria in that the interventions: (1) used no more than 60 minutes of contact time in 1 to 2 sessions, (2) were individual level and face to face, (3) took place in a clinical setting, (4) had STD outcomes available, (5) were based in the United States, (6) were peer reviewed, and (7) had a control group.
From 6 reviews (published 2006–2014) covering 91 studies, we found 13 analyses representing 11 intervention studies that fit the selection criteria. Of these 13, 5 returned lower STD rates in the intervention group at follow-up; one study reported a higher rate of STD in one subset of the intervention group (men who have sex with men). Studies with effects on STD at follow-up were quite similar to studies across populations, settings, and follow-up periods, although successful interventions were more likely to demonstrate behavioral effects as well (5/5 vs. 2/5 among 10 interventions measuring behavior change).
Counseling is likely to benefit some STD clinic attendees, although unlikely to benefit men who have sex with men. The balance of costs and benefits of implementing behavioral counseling in STD programs is unclear, but feasibility would be improved if behavioral counseling were implemented in the context of other prevention efforts. Because populations outside typical STD clinic settings could also benefit, programs may exercise a valuable role through partnerships.