Interactive distribution

The key to this intervention Interactive distribution involves passing sexual health resources from hand-to-hand when engaging with individuals in a range of locations. By initiating engagement or listening out for needs as they emerge health promoters can better target their resources through interactive distribution.

What is the activity?

Sexual health resources are items which help to meet HIV prevention need such as printed small media (booklets, leaflets, cards) and associated support materials (pens, stickers, button badges, key-rings, sweets etc.) and male and female condoms and water-based lubricant.

Interactive distribution of resources usually involves passing things from hand-to-hand when engaging with individuals in a range of locations. It is generally accompanied by some degree of talking and listening with the people to whom the materials are being distributed.

Interactive distribution may be proactive, where a health promoter cold-sells a resource. This can involve making a direct approach to a specific individual or a group in a community setting and handing out materials. Alternatively, interactive distribution may be reactive, which means materials are given when an individual makes a request, or on the basis of a particular need identified by the health promoter when talking and listening with a client.

We distinguish interactive distribution from static distribution in which resources are left in a location for people to pick upat their leisure.

Strengths and limitations

Interactive distribution allows providers to be strategic about the targeting of resources (for instance, to those attending specific services, or those of a particular ethnicity or age range). Interactive distribution serves to strengthen the client’s association with an issue and/or with the organisation providing resources. This connection will increase the individual’s regard for the organisation and perhaps their own uptake of future interventions.

Interactive distribution of resources ensures that stock use and popularity of particular resources can be monitored, and there is little wastage. From a staffing point of view, interactive distribution is time and cost intensive, but is likely to be more effective than static distribution.

Where does it happen?

Interactive distribution (both proactive and reactive) can happen in almost any setting where African people congregate in sufficient density, including:

  • Cultural and community events, and college fairs, sometimes accompanied by a stall where resources can be browsed, and which also draws people into discussions.
  • Other community settings such as migrant and African cultural and support centres, HIV service provider offices, support groups, and any place where and HIV prevention talking and listening interventions are provided.
  • On foot during face-to-face outreach or detached work at business venues (such as clubs, shops, restaurants, and hairdressers) and in marketplace locations.
  • Given that reactive distribution is about directly responding to requests for resources, this can happen almost anywhere, and it includes requests to be included on mailing lists.

Frequently delivered alongside ...

Issues to consider

Interactive distribution requires staff or volunteers with strong communication skills, and knowledge about the best use of the resources. For instance, in the case of condom distribution, a short discussion about condom failure will increase the likelihood that condoms are used effectively. Staff will also require the ability to make referrals where appropriate.

Access to business premises and community venues will require advance negotiation with organisers and venue owners. This requires diplomacy and creativity since the existence of an ideal setting does not automatically ensure access to it. Particular locations will attract service users of a certain age, gender, ethnic background etc. Careful attention must be paid to ensure that selected sites for interactive distribution are best suited for the intended target audience. Consideration should also be made about how materials will best reach those in need who do not frequent locations selected for distribution.

Interactive distribution during outreach work is generally delivered by pairs of workers, and in isolated or potentially dangerous areas, additional equipment (such as mobile phones and alarms) will be required.


The outcomes of interactive distribution depend crucially on what is being distributed and the extent to which it is accompanied by talking and listening interventions. Overall the outcomes are likely to be information-based, and the list below offers some examples:

  • Increasing the extent to which they consider that the sex they have could risk HIV transmission (see associated needs).
  • Having a clearer understanding about how and why different sexual acts carry differing risks of HIV transmission (see associated needs).
  • Knowing HIV exists and understanding the harm it can cause (see associated needs).
  • Understanding the benefits of knowing their own HIV status (see associated needs here and here).
  • Increased confidence and motivation to openly discuss sex and sexuality, as modelled by the worker undertaking the intervention (see associated needs).
  • Increased belief that avoiding HIV transmission is a positive and beneficial social norm shared by prospective sexual partners (see associated needs).
  • Knowing how to correctly use male and female condoms, and feeling more confident introducing condoms with sexual partners (see associated needs).
  • Access to quantities of free or affordable condoms (see associated needs here and here).
  • Knowing more about other services that can help to meet a range of needs, including HIV prevention need (see associated needs).

Monitoring and evaluation

Interactive distribution is a means of ensuring that sexual health resources are effectively and efficiently distributed to their target population. Assessing outcomes for this type of intervention extends beyond monitoring the number of items distributed. The use of short questionnaires by outreach workers can enable interveners to assess the demographic profile of the people receiving resources. The use of talking and listening interventions in conjunction with interactive distribution enables informal and formal needs assessments to be undertaken, which enhance the possibilities of outcome evaluation.

Survey methods can assess awareness of the products and means of accessing them within the target population. Interviews or focus groups may be used to examine the value that such resources carry, and how people prefer to access them.

Page last updated: 17 July 2013

Case study

Street outreach

West African Networking Initiative (WANI)

An essential element of the work undertaken by WANI in South London is its street outreach, led by a well-known and well respected community member. He engages people in discussion about their lives and their interests, wherever he finds them, be it shopping in the street markets, catching the tube, or waiting in a mini-cab office. He finds that by quickly establishing a clear rapport, and making it clear that he is able to provide a supply of free condoms, people are often interested to hear more about what he has to offer. Interactive distribution helps him to refer people to other interventions.