N.C. – April 20, 2017 – Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted
for two thirds of all new HIV infections in the United States, with 26 percent
occurring in Latinos, according to 2014 data. If those rates continue, it is
estimated that one in four Latino MSM may be diagnosed with HIV during his
In an effort to reduce those infection rates, scientists
at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed, implemented and evaluated a
behavioral intervention program called HOLA en Grupos.
“We found that we can prevent HIV infection among a very
hard-to-reach and growing population in the South,” said the study’s principal
investigator Scott D. Rhodes, Ph.D., chair of social sciences and health policy
and director of the Program in Community Engagement at Wake Forest School of
Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist.
”This is one of the first interventions specifically
developed for Latino men and we had a 100 percent retention rate, which is
unheard of in biomedical, behavioral and translational research.”
The findings are published in the April 20 online edition
of the American Journal of Public Health.
In the study, the researchers evaluated the Spanish
language, small-group behavioral HIV prevention program designed to increase
condom use and HIV testing – two methods proven to reduce infection – among
Latinos who have sex with men.
From 2012 to 2015, 304 Latino MSM ages 18 to 55 were
recruited in North Carolina and randomized to the four-session HOLA en Grupos
intervention or to a general health education intervention. Participants
completed structured assessments at baseline and at six-month follow-up.
At follow-up, the HOLA participants reported that consistent
condom use during sex had increased from 33 percent to 65 percent, as compared
to the control group that reported little change. The HOLA group also reported
an increase in HIV testing from 32 percent to 80 percent as compared to the
control group, which reported no significant change.
HOLA participants also reported increased knowledge of
HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, condom use skill, sexual
communication skills and decreased fatalism, according to the study.
“This has significant public health ramifications because
we’ve learned how to reach people at high risk to promote health,”
Rhodes said. “We’ve developed a guide on how to implement the program so it
should be easy to replicate in other states.”
Funding for the study was provided by the CDC.
Co-authors are: Jorge Alonzo, J.D., Lilli Mann, M.P.H.,
Eunyoung Song, Ph.D., Jorge Elias Arellano, Manuel Garcia, Rodrigo
Rodriguez-Celedon and Beth A. Reboussin, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist; Amanda
E. Tanner, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and Arin
Freeman, M.P.H., and Tom Painter, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and