UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Dr. David Wyrick

Dr. David Wyrick (Public Health Education) received continuation of funding from Pennsylvania State University for the project “The Intersection of Alcohol and Sex: Engineering an Online STI Prevention Program.”  

The rate of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on college campuses is alarming. One in four college students is diagnosed with an STI at least once during their college experience. Sexual activity when drinking alcohol is highly prevalent among college students. Alcohol use is known to contribute to the sexual risk behaviors that are most responsible for the transmission of STIs, namely unprotected sex, contact with numerous partners, and “hook-ups” (casual sexual encounters). Few interventions have been developed that explicitly target the intersection of alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors, and none have been optimized.

In order to reduce the incidence of STI transmission among this and other higher-risk groups, a new approach is needed. The Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) is an innovative and comprehensive methodological framework that brings the power of engineering principles to bear on optimization of behavioral interventions. The overall objective of the proposed research is to use MOST to develop a highly effective, appealing, economical and readily scalable behavioral intervention targeting the intersection of alcohol use and sexual risk behavior, with the objective of reducing the incidence of STIs among college students.

Given the high rates of alcohol use and sex among college students, the college setting provides an ideal opportunity for intervening on alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors. The proposed study will include a diverse population of college students (50 percent African American) on four campuses – two Historically Black Colleges and Universities, one large public university, and one junior college. This will increase the generalizability of findings. Specific aims are to: (1) develop an initial set of online intervention components targeting the link between alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors; (2) use the MOST approach to build an optimized preventive intervention; and (3) conduct exploratory moderation analyses to determine for whom each component of the intervention works best.

This work will result in a new, more potent behavioral intervention that will reduce the incidence of STIs among college students in the US, and will lay the groundwork for a new generation of highly effective STI prevention interventions aimed at other subpopulations at risk.