Brief messages to promote prevention and detection of sexually transmitted infections

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© 2015 Bentham Science Publishers. We review the results of our research program investigating the effects of brief risk awareness interventions for sexually active young adults⎯the age group most at-risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Our review examines the influence of framed messages, individual differences, and visual aids on key attitudes, behavioral intentions, and health outcomes in three extensive longitudinal studies. Our first study showed that health messages can promote self-reported condom use (screening for STIs) when the messages were framed in positive (negative) terms. This study also showed that adding visual aids to the positive and negative framed messages made them equally and highly effective for promoting self-reported behavior. Visual aids increased self-reported behavior by eliminating the effect of framing on attitudes and behavioral intentions, which in turn influenced self-reported behavior. Our second study showed that visual aids were especially helpful for reducing the effect of message framing among young adults with low numeracy and high graph literacy. Our third study showed that visual aids influenced key attitudes, behavioral intentions, and self-reported behavior as much as a validated 8-hour educational program. Overall, our research suggests that well-constructed visual aids provide simple, effective ways of communicating quantitative information about STIs to at-risk young adults. Theoretical mechanisms, public policy implications, and open questions are discussed.

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Current HIV Research