The "Safer Choices" intervention: Its impact on the sexual behaviors of different subgroups of high school students

Douglas B. Kirby, Elizabeth Baumler, Karin K. Coyle, Karen Basen-Engquist, Guy S. Parcel, Ron Harrist, Stephen W. Banspach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To measure the relative impact of a school-based human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-, sexually transmitted disease (STD)-, and pregnancy-prevention intervention on sexual risk-taking behaviors of different subgroups of students. Methods Twenty schools were randomly assigned to receive Safer Choices or a standard knowledge-based HIV-education program. Safer Choices was designed to reduce unprotected sex by delaying initiation of sex, reducing its frequency, or increasing condom use. Its five components included: school organization, an intensive curriculum with staff development, peer resources and school environment, parent education, and school-community linkages. A total of 3869 9th-grade students were tracked for 31 months. Results are presented for initiation of sex, frequency of unprotected sex, number of unprotected sexual partners, condom use, and contraceptive use. These results are presented separately by gender, race/ethnicity, prior sexual experience, and prior sexual risk-taking. Statistical analyses included multilevel, repeated measures logistic and Poisson regression models. Results Safer Choices had one or more positive behavioral effects on all subgroups. On four outcomes that could be affected by condom use, it had a greater impact on males than on females. It had greater effects on Hispanics, including a delay in sexual activity, than on other racial/ethnic groups. Its greatest overall effect was an increase in condom use among students who had engaged in unprotected sex before the intervention. Conclusions Safer Choices reduced one or more measures of sexual risk taking over 31 months among all groups of youth, and was especially effective with males, Hispanics, and youth who engaged in unprotected sex and thus were at higher risk for HIV, other STD infections and pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-452
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender differences
  • Racial/ethnic differences
  • Sex and HIV education
  • Sexual behavior
  • Teen HIV/STD and pregnancy prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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