Group information and advice

The key to this intervention Talking interventions delivered to groups are usually educational, and encourage people to examine the potential consequences of their choices rather than telling them how to behave.

What is the activity?

Information and advice interventions directed at groups can stand alone or be part of a larger event. During a fixed time slot, participants hear about HIV prevention from trained health promoters, and can gain advice regarding specific issues (for instance, during a Question and Answer session). Information is imparted in an engaging format. Depending on the setting, group facilitators should also be able to signpost relevant services, provide sexual health resources, and provide one-to-one information and advice where required (or make arrangements to do so at a later time).

Groupwork interventions and support groups offer a more therapeutic and developmental approach over longer periods of time and are discussed elsewhere.

Strengths and limitations

Educational events help to give a sense that sexual health is an issue for open discussion among African people. Hearing information from a trusted expert, and having an opportunity to ask questions can increase motivation to seek further interventions and services.

The administration, advertising and delivery of events require considerable time, effort and skill. For these reasons they can be cost intensive, yet their unit cost (cost per service user) can be lower than many other face-to-face interventions because many more people can benefit.

These interventions are topic-led rather than client-based. Therefore, some people in any given group will hear things they already know, and some will miss out on things that they would have liked to have known. Information-giving on its own does not meet all HIV prevention needs. In particular, it does not help to address situations where a person’s limited power prevents them from avoiding HIV transmission.

Where does it happen?

These interventions are often delivered face-to-face by facilitators who can speak to large or small groups. They usually last an hour or two, and can be part of a larger event. Such events may require the organisation of formal venues and catering, whereas smaller informal settings, such as family homes can also be used. Settings include (but are not limited to):

  • cultural and community venues (such as town halls, libraries, churches);
  • commercial venues (such as pubs, clubs, hotels or conference facilities);
  • the offices of other service providers (including NHS and voluntary sector services);
  • one-to-many media platforms such as radio and television.

Frequently delivered alongside ...

Issues to consider

Those with the greatest social skills, confidence and interest in a topic are the most likely to want to increase their knowledge. This can lead to a pattern where repeat attendees are the ones who fill available spaces, rather than those in greatest need. Carefully considered advertising and interventions that take place as a part of broader events, in partnership with other service providers, can help such interventions to reach those in greatest need.

Self-referral is often the key to such interventions. This means they require that African men and women to recognise their information deficits and have sufficient motivation to address them. This motivation is more likely when the person and / or agency providing the intervention is trusted, and also when potential participants are aware of the likely benefits.

Facilitators will require training and experience with a variety of communication techniques. Knowledge on its own is not sufficient, as facilitators will need to deliver the intervention in a way that is engaging and non-judgmental, and which recognises the (sometimes diverse) values and learning styles held by participants.

Outcomes

As with most information and advice interventions, the outcomes are primarily knowledge based. The list below offers some examples of outcomes among African people receiving information and advice in groups (depending on the content of the intervention):

  • Knowing HIV exists and understanding the harm it can cause (see associated needs).
  • Having a clearer understanding about how and why different sexual acts carry differing risks of HIV transmission (see associated needs).
  • Knowing how to correctly use male and female condoms, and feel more confident introducing condoms with sexual partners (see associated needs).
  • Understanding the benefits of knowing their own HIV status (see associated needs here and here).
  • Knowing more about other services that they can access to better help them meet a range of needs, including HIV prevention need (see associated needs).
  • Increased requests for (and uptake of) STI screening (see associated needs).
  • Possessing increased confidence and motivation to openly discuss sex and sexuality, as modelled by the provider of a face-to-face intervention (see associated needs here, here and here).
  • Increased desire to contribute to the health and well being of their community (see associated needs here and here).

Monitoring and evaluation

The use of access evaluation tools can provide agencies with a basic demographic profile (age, ethnicity, gender, area of residence) of the people using information and advice interventions for groups. Short self-completion questionnaires may also be used to help determine the effectiveness of interventions. These may ask users to fill in some questions prior to the intervention, and others afterwards in order to assess changes in knowledge, beliefs or attitudes. Support from researchers is useful in order to ensure that such tools are used effectively.

More complex research techniques (for instance, in-depth interviews) can be used in order to undertake longer-term follow up. However, the cost and commitment required is considerable, and the collection and management of individual service users’ personal details is necessary.

Page last updated: 17 July 2013

Case study

Seminars

Pan Afrique Centre

Rather than advertising health seminars for anyone who wants to come, Pan Afrique works in partnership with other service providers to target groups that meet regularly, or have shared issues. This allows facilitators to tailor the content to best suit the specific needs of different audiences (such as: younger people, single parents, people with diagnosed HIV, social enterprise collectives etc.). This overcomes the need for self-referral to a separate event at an unknown location, as talks can be hosted by agencies with which the participants are already familiar.

     

Case study

Life and Knowledge training

African Health Policy Network

Life and Knowledge is a collaboratively developed toolkit for use when training local Muslim faith leaders, stakeholders and service providers to better inform their own community members about issues related to HIV and Islam. NAHIP commissioned Sigma Research to undertake an outcome evaluation of training events using the Life and Knowledge toolkit. Attendees at the events in London and Leicester worked either at a Mosque or Islamic Community centre, or they provided health services in the community. As a direct result of their participation, the overwhelming majority of participants said they had increased their HIV knowledge, had a more positive attitude to Muslims with HIV, and had increased their capacity and intention to carry out community-based HIV education. Click here to read the evaluation report in full.