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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Targeting HIV Risk Behaviors

Healthy Choices for Youth
Targeting HIV Risk Behaviors in Juvenile Drug Court-Involved Youth

The overriding purpose of this study is to develop and test an intervention for reducing substance use and risky sexual behaviors among youth involved in juvenile drug court. Juvenile drug court provides an excellent setting in which to pursue the key study objectives by providing access to a well identified high-risk population. Second, in addition to frequent judicial oversight, juvenile drug courts include several features that can enhance intervention effectiveness, sustainability, and potential for adoption. In addition, the fact that all juvenile drug courts have community-based treatment components and that such courts have been disseminated nationwide suggests the possibility of eventual widespread adoption if the proposed intervention is effective.

The proposed intervention integrates evidence-based protocols for contingency management (CM) for substance-abusing youth and family engagement strategies, with an evidence-informed family systems intervention for sexual risk originally developed to address substance use and sexual risk behaviors in HIV+ youth. These three interventions will be integrated into an efficient intervention that, if effective, can be amenable to adoption by juvenile drug courts. Following protocol development and beta testing, 160 drug court youth and their families will be randomized to the experimental intervention condition (HIV Risk Reduction or “HRR”) versus Drug Court with Community Services (DC) conditions. Key outcomes will be assessed through 12-months post-baseline using a multi-method approach that will include assessment of substance use, risky sexual behaviors, criminal behavior, and participation in HIV counseling and testing services. Specific aims include: 1: Adapt existing intervention and training protocols into a single, efficient HRR intervention, beta test this HHR protocol with four youth in juvenile drug court and their families, and revise treatment and research protocols accordingly; 2: Conduct a randomized trial with 160 youth in juvenile drug court and their families to examine youth-level intervention effects (i.e., on substance use, sexual risk behavior, HIV counseling and testing, delinquent behavior) in comparison to DC through 12- months post referral and assess intervention fidelity. 3. If results suggest a positive HRR treatment effect, revise the intervention and training protocols in preparation for an effectiveness study and extended follow-up study. Importantly, the proposed study will (1) consider the multiple levels of influence on juvenile drug use, criminal justice involvement, and HIV risk behaviors, (2) integrate a drug abuse and HIV prevention intervention for youth in the criminal justice system with drug-related offenses, (3) address health disparities by targeting a primarily minority population of youth, and (4) increase referrals to HIV testing and counseling of drug court-involved youth. This study is designed to reduce HIV risk by addressing the potent interaction of drug use and risky sexual behaviors in drug court youth with evidence-based treatment components to maximize the likelihood of reversing these youths’ adverse behavioral trajectories.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Powell (Project Manager) by phone at 843-876-1833, or by e-mail at

Principal Investigator
Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Ph.D.

Ashli Sheidow, Ph.D.
Michael McCart, Ph.D.

Funding Agency
National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Affiliated Centers/Programs
Charleston Juvenile Drug Court
Tampa Juvenile Drug Court

Start Date - End Date
September 2008-June 2013



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