Condom use following a pilot test of the Popular Opinion Leader intervention in the Barbados Defence Force
Worldwide, military personnel have been recognized as a population at elevated risk for sexually transmitted infections and HIV. However, few evidence based behavioral interventions for the prevention of HIV and STIs have been rigorously evaluated in military personnel. We adapted the Popular Opinion Leaders (POL) intervention and piloted the adapted program with the Barbados Defence Force at one military base in Barbados. Popular Opinion Leaders were selected and trained to focus conversations on condom use. Behavioral questionnaires were administered using audio computer-assisted self interview at baseline (n = 256) and 6-month follow-up (n = 303). Mid-point focus groups were conducted with a sample of 15 POLs at a 3 month mid-point assessment. Quantitative data showed moderate increases in condom use at 6-months, and significant uptake of condom use during oral-genital contact in female personnel. A subgroup analysis suggests that this change was partially mediated by post-intervention changes in injunctive norms surrounding condom use in women. Focus groups revealed that POLs were heavily focusing on condom demonstrations, condom provision within social networks, speaking with coworkers about pleasure associated with condom use, and that the most common venues for conversations included those where alcohol was consumed. During the intervention, POLs dispersed from the intervention site as a result of normal personnel movement across bases, resulting in our having to use a pre and post intervention design across the population. It is likely that larger effect sizes would be observed in efforts that account for the natural dispersion of personnel across bases.