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Int J Drug Policy. 2008 Apr;19(2):130-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2007.11.018. Epub 2008 Jan 18.

Alcohol, cannabis, and methamphetamine use and other risk behaviours among Black and Coloured South African women: a small randomized trial in the Western Cape.

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Substance Abuse Treatment Evaluations and Interventions, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194, USA.



There is a pressing need for brief behavioural interventions to address the intersection of high HIV prevalence, increasing substance use, and high-risk sex practices among South African women. The primary aim of this pilot, randomized trial was to examine whether an adapted evidence-based intervention would be equally, more, or less effective at reducing HIV risk behaviours when delivered using an individual or group format. The secondary aim was to examine differences between Black and Coloured South African women across pre- and post-intervention measures of alcohol and illicit drug use and sex risk behaviours.


The Cape Town Women's Health CoOp was adapted from an evidence-based intervention known as the Women's CoOp. Study participants included Black (n=60) and Coloured (n=52) women living in the township communities of Cape Town, South Africa, who reported using illicit drugs and alcohol.


Coloured women reported greater methamphetamine use (13 days in the past 30 days) and Black women reported mostly cannabis use (27 days in the past 30 days). Although both groups reported having unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs, Black women reported greater condom use and having one partner; Coloured women reported having more than one sex partner. One-month post-intervention assessments indicated significant reductions in substance use and sex risk behaviours. After controlling for baseline measures, there were no significant differences between the two intervention conditions.


Significant differences in risk behaviours were observed between Black and Coloured South African women. However, both ethnic groups were responsive to the adapted intervention and no differences were found by intervention assignment. These findings support the assertion that group interventions may be more cost-effective in reaching at-risk women in resource-scarce environments. Larger studies are needed to show efficacy and effectiveness of woman-focused group prevention interventions.

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