Feb 05, 2014


 The intervention is a customizable, web-based, interactive computer program for adolescents in drug use treatment programs. It is designed to prevent HIV and other STIs by giving adolescents information about both the diseases and strategies to minimize risk, including condom use skills. When combined with a traditional sexual-education workshop, the intervention was shown to increase knowledge about HIV and risk-reduction strategies more than the workshop alone. Participants also rated the program more useful than the workshop.


 Target population: Adolescents in outpatient drug treatment programs

This HIV prevention program is designed to be used in substance abuse treatment programs. It uses a customizable, web-based, interactive computer teaching program, which can be used alone or in conjunction with a standard intervention workshop. Information about other STIs and hepatitis C are also included in the program. The program consists of up to 25 learning units, which take between two and five sessions to complete. However, the program is self-directed, and there are a different number of sections offered depending on individual risk factors. For instance, when the adolescent already has HIV or hepatitis C, there are additional sections on managing the disease. The program also teaches how substance use can increase risk of contracting various diseases, as well as skills such as negotiation, decision-making, and risk-reduction strategies. The pace of learning is set by periodic quizzes to test mastery. The program also uses interactive videos and exercises to assist learning.


 Marsch, L. A., Grabinski, M. J., Bickel, W. K., et. al. (2011). Computer-assisted HIV prevention for youth with substance use disorders. Substance Use and Misuse, 46(1), 46-56.

 Evaluated population: Adolescents for this study were recruited from two community-based adolescent treatment programs for substance use in New York City. Both programs offered outpatient substance user counseling to patients 3 to 5 days per week as a group, with some individual sessions as well. The 56 participants ranged in age from 12 to 18. Of these participants, 70 percent were male, 59 percent were African American, 34 percent were Hispanic, and 93 percent were in treatment for marijuana use. One participant already had an HIV diagnosis, and one had a diagnosis of hepatitis C.

Approach: Participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention (N=28) or control condition (N=28).  Participants in the control condition received a one-hour workshop based on the curriculum recommended by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The workshop was taught by a trained HIV and infectious disease prevention educator in small groups of two to four participants, and included a video. Participants in the intervention condition received the same workshop, but were also required to complete the computer-based program in their own time.

Before the intervention, immediately after the intervention, and at one and three months after the intervention, participants were assessed on their level of HIV and disease prevention knowledge, intentions to engage in safer sex, attitudes about safer sex, and condom use skills. Those in the treatment group were also asked to compare the usefulness of the two interventions. Of note is that participants in the intervention group simply had more time learning the material than the control group, and any results found may be a consequence of this alone and not the quality of the intervention.

Results: Adolescents in the intervention group had significantly greater knowledge about HIV and other disease prevention. Participants in the intervention group also rated the computer intervention as more useful than the workshop. However, the intervention did not have significant impacts on any behavioral intentions (including AIDS risk reduction strategies) or condom use skills.



 Marsch, L. A., Grabinski, M. J., Bickel, W. K., et. al. (2011). Computer-assisted HIV prevention for youth with substance use disorders. Substance Use and Misuse, 46(1), 46-56.


Contact Information

Lisa A. Marsch

Center for Technology and Health

National Development and Research Institutes

71 West 23rd Street, 8th Floor

New York, NY 10010


KEYWORDS: Adolescents, Youth, Males and Females, High-Risk, Urban, Clinic/Provider-based, Skills Training, Computer-based, STD/HIV/AIDS, Condom Use and Contraception

Program information last updated on 2/5/14.