Keep It Up!, an online intervention program designed for ethnically diverse and young MSM, significantly lowered sexually transmitted infections, reports an extensive study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Using videos, animations and games to provide safer behaviors, the Keep It Up! program incorporates nine modules that help young MSM learn about safer behaviors. Each of the nine modules is based on real life scenarios that young MSM will likely encounter, such as the saturation of online dating apps and the heavy impact of drugs and alcohol. The entire program can be completed within about two hours.
Watch the video of the program here, which explains how young MSM are “44 times more likely to contract HIV” than other men. That’s one of the many reasons why a program focused on young men and risky behaviors is greatly needed today.
A study, entitled “Biomedical and Behavioral Outcomes of Keep It Up!: An eHealth HIV Prevention Program RCT” now suggests that the program is working and helps to reduce the rates of infection in young MSM.
For the study, 901 participants were enrolled in a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. The pool of participants is made up of HIV-negative young men who have sex with men and who admitted to having condom-less sex and other risky behaviors, ages 18 to 29 years old. Over half of the participants were black or Hispanic. The young men were recruited from ads and at HIV testing locations in Atlanta, Chicago and New York City.
Participants were sent to one of two prevention programs, one being Keep It Up! and the other being a website with non-interactive information about safe STI practices as a control group. 445 participants were selected for the intervention and 456 were selected for the other program.
Participants were screened a year later for STIs including gonorrhoea and chlamydia. In the control group, 11 percent of participants at the beginning of the study were infected with STIs, which rose to 14 percent at 12 months. In the group that tried out Keep It Up!, 18 percent of participants had infections at baseline, dropping to 9 percent at 12 months.
In individuals, researchers observed a 55 percent increase in infections at 12 months within the control group, while observing a 51 percent decrease in infections in the group using Keep It Up!.
“The Keep It Up! intervention resulted in significantly lower sexually transmitted infection incidence and a small but significant decrease in condomless anal sex 12 months post-intervention relative to an online HIV knowledge condition,” researchers concluded. “In addition, this study demonstrated the feasibility and acceptability of at-home sexually transmitted infection testing as part of an eHealth intervention.”
The study highlights that the most improvements in behavioral practices were observed in the group that tried Keep It Up!.
The program meets the CDC’s prevention grant requirement to provide comprehensive HIV and STI prevention services for HIV-negative people. This program could help redefine how we approach STI prevention in young adult menwho are sexually active.