(HealthDay News) — All sexually active adolescents and adults who are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections should undergo “intensive” behavioral counseling to help prevent risky sexual behaviors (a B recommendation), according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The final recommendation statement was published online September 23 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Behavioral counseling can reduce the odds of developing a sexually transmitted infection and encourage safe-sex practices, the experts concluded after reviewing previously published studies. “Interventions ranging in intensity from 30 minutes to two or more hours of contact time are beneficial,” according to the recommendation statement. Intensive counseling (two hours or more) was the most effective; moderate-intensity interventions (30 minutes to two hours) were less consistently beneficial; and low-intensity interventions (less than 30 minutes) were the least effective.

Certain approaches to counseling have been successful in preventing sexually transmitted infections, the Task Force found. One effective strategy is providing people with basic information about the various infections and how they are spread. Other beneficial strategies include assessing people’s risk for sexually transmitted infections, teaching them how to use condoms correctly, and providing them with tips on how to communicate with their partner about safe sex.

Primary care clinicians can provide the counseling or refer patients to trained behavioral counselors. Community organizations, schools, and health departments may also offer risk-reduction counseling. Many primary care doctors don’t routinely provide counseling about sexual activity or contraception during health care visits, the Task Force noted. Stronger links between doctors and their communities could help improve the delivery of this service.

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