What is the activity?
Many agencies delivering HIV prevention interventions to African people have a website that describes their work and promotes the agency. More recently, dedicated websites targeting Africans have been developed as an intervention in themselves or as an element of a particular campaign or resource. Good online interventions aim to make the most of the setting, by providing appropriate links and referrals. This means they are more than simply a repeat of text that is already available in printed interventions.
Strengths and limitations
One of the major beneﬁts of any website is that it extends the potential reach of interventions beyond what face-to-face interactions can achieve. The potential to offer people up-to-date, relevant referrals to other sources of information and services is vast, and can be tailored speciﬁcally to their own needs. Also, those who may be less likely to approach workers or services directly (due to embarrassment or concerns about stigma) may access information in the relative anonymity of the internet. Online resources can be interactive, and are also not necessarily linear. This means that people can directly access an element of an intervention that is of greatest use to them personally.
Internet-based interventions will not reach those without computer skills, or who lack consistent access to the internet. However, among African respondents to the Bass Line 2007 survey, two thirds said they used the internet at their own home in the past three months, and more than a quarter had done so at a friend’s home, as well as many who used internet cafés, places of employment, libraries or educational institutions to go online (unpublished data, Sigma Research).
With careful attention to design, the needs of people with diverse linguistic and disability access requirements can be met online at a comparatively low cost.
Where does it happen?
Web-based interventions take place on the internet. What requires close attention, however, is what particular websites or web-searches will encourage the target audience to visit the site. Even the best websites will be of limited value if there is little attention paid to their promotion.
Frequently delivered alongside ...
Issues to consider
Simply placing materials designed for a print-based (small or mass media) campaign on the internet is not necessarily effective. Playing to the strengths of the medium requires interactive websites which add value and attract users.
Exciting and innovative websites are of no use if the target audience is not aware of their existence. Careful attention must be paid to recruitment and motivation to spend time on the website. This will require an advertising strategy that is diverse, carefully targeted, and that occurs mainly online, as people click-through to websites rather than remembering to follow-up on websites that they have heard about through printed (ofﬂine) media. This will require extensive research about the internet habits and most popular sites among the target group before planning promotion. Where funding means that the target audience covers only a very small geographic area, a dedicated website is unlikely to be the best means of reaching people.
Website hosting and updating arrangements must be in place for the duration of an intervention and planned clearly from the outset. Systems for error reporting are also essential.
The outcomes of online interventions are usually information-based, but they may help to alter attitudes and perceived norms of behaviour. The list below offers some examples of outcomes depending on the content of the online 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 (see associated needs).
- Understanding the beneﬁts of knowing their own HIV status (see associated needs here and here).
- Increased requests for (and uptake of) STI screening (see associated needs).
- Knowing more about reducing harm when unprotected sex does happen - such as withdrawal and ensuring sero-concordance - while also understanding that there are more effective means of avoiding HIV transmission (see associated needs here and here).
- Increased awareness of other services that they can access to better help them meet a range of needs, including HIV prevention need (see associated needs).
- Increasing the extent to which sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed and treated (see associated needs).
- Increased requests for (and uptake of) PEP following sexual exposure to HIV (see associated needs).
- Increased consideration that the sex they have could risk HIV transmission (see associated needs).
Monitoring and evaluation
Trafﬁc to a website can be monitored, and it is also possible to keep track of what referring / advertising websites the user arrived from. Funders will want evidence that website users are within a speciﬁc geographic area, meaning that recording numbers of visitors, or page views, alone is probably not sufﬁcient.
Site trafﬁc can also be monitored in relation to particular distribution spikes pertaining to different forms of promotion (such as online, face-to-face or small media interventions).Simple online evaluation tools can be used to ask a random (or purposefully sampled) selection of visitors to the website about their views on the site, and what they found to be of most and least use. Results can be viewed and analysed immediately, and can feed into ongoing development of the website.
Page last updated: 17 July 2013
I Do It Right website
NAHIP's 'I Do it Right' website www.idoitright.co.uk aims to make accurate HIV prevention information more accessible to the UK's African community. The website is a product of extensive user testing, which judged the I Do It Right campaign to be more empowering and less instructive than the previous campaign. The website hosts an innovative service that encourages visitors to chat online in confidence with a trained advisor. It also provides a searchable database of HIV services (produced in collaboration with NAM). Visit the website here.
www.myhiv.org.uk launched in Jan 2011, developed by Terrence Higgins Trust in partnership with EJAF in consultation with members of key African community organisations. It provides 'a whole new level of self management'. It has over 2,000 registered users. Comprehensive healthcare information is Information Standard accredited and research evidence is available on page. myHIV offers free 'self management tools', including text message meds or appointment reminders, and free online advice and support through online chat with qualified professionals. It hosts the country's largest positive online forum with over 740 active members, providing a unique resource for peer support.
Promotion video: rapid HIV testing
LASS wanted their rapid HIV testing service to have a visible presence, so with the help of their volunteers, they created a simple video advert to promote HIV testing, without many words but with a high visual impact. The message is: It is better to know my HIV status – now I can move on. Currently available on the LASS website, youtube, and on the Baseline magazine website, the video is also used in training sessions and at events, and has received a very positive response. Celia Fisher from LASS says: “People like it and find it powerful. It helps our action teams to promote HIV testing.”