Quality and reliable information on HIV prevention for teens

Based on years of experience in HIV prevention among teens at-risk groups,  AFEW-Ukraine team has created a set of  informative pictures about HIV prevention and treatment, contraception and safe relationships, as well as prevention from using drugs. These pictures will  help professionals while working with teenagers on social media.

The pictures were created within the project “Flexible Fund: Young, Wild and … free? » for the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The AFEW-Ukraine team also urges bloggers and everyone who cares to share these pictures with young people, because now it is so important to have access to quality and reliable information, and also beautifully visualized!

For more details check the documents

A participatory youth-led research on the needs of young key populations. Do young key populations in Russia have access to sexual and reproductive health services?

 Lessons learned in the scale-up of good practices in reaching and engaging young key populations in Young, Wild and… Free? 

Flex Fund in Ukraine. Promotion of SRHR and human rights in social media

For more than 10 years AFEW-Ukraine has been building services for most at-risk youth with a special focus on young people who use drugs, and most of this work was supported by the project “Bridging the Gaps: Health and Rights for Key Populations”. Empowering young people, developing their leadership skills, training them as communicators to deliver information to their peers and decision-makers have been the key components of the project.

These activities were continued by AFEW-Ukraine within the “Young, Wild… and Free?” project which allowed to support the sustainability of results achieved in the Bridging the Gaps project by capacity building and engagement of young people in the promotion of SRHR and human rights in social media.

In August-September 2021 AFEW-Ukraine designed and conducted a contest among teen bloggers for the best post or series of posts on safer behavior, human rights, and health of teenagers in social networks (Instagram, YouTube, TikTok). Teenagers aged 14-19 with a personal blog in social networks could apply to win one of the special beginners sets for bloggers.

Participants were talking about such topics as

  • Reliable information on the routes of transmission of HIV / STIs / TB / Hepatitis A, B, C
  • Motivation for HIV testing
  • Contraception and the benefits of condom use
  • Reliable information on adolescents’ rights (including medical aid and sexual and reproductive health education)
  • Reliable information about friendly social and medical services for teenagers

As a result, 4 youth leaders became the winners of the competition and received prizes. Additionally, special infographics about HIV/SRHR/safer behavior, drugs, and overdose prevention were developed to be used on Instagram by partner NGOs and most active youth leaders.

For more details check  Lessons learned in the scale-up of good practices in reaching and engaging young key populations in Young, Wild and… Free? 

Research on risky behavior among teenagers in Russia

Doing research in public health, specifically on HIV prevention, is one of the primary activities for the AIDS Foundation East-West Russia (AFEW-Russia). 

Under the ‘Young, Wild… and Free?’ project AFEW-Russia researched risky behavior among teenagers of the secondary schools in Nizhny Novgorod region as well as among young patients of the drug use rehabilitation center there.

Irina Zarubina (AFEW-Russia)

“We were surprised to discover a couple of interesting observations.

First of all, students and patients of the rehabilitation center mostly do not differ from each other in terms of socio-demographic characteristics.  For example, they have a complete family (mom and dad) and go to school. This suggests that, despite an existing stereotype, a complete family is not good protection against the development of risky behavior.

And secondly, one-third of teenage students have low self-esteem and perceive themselves negatively in one way or another.  They feel like failures, think they have nothing to be proud of and that they are useless.  In addition, one-third of the responding students feel like outsiders among others, and this “strangeness” is the reason for the negative attitude towards them.  These findings require special attention since low self-esteem and “strangeness” can influence the development of risky behavior among teenagers”.

Developing targeted materials

Under the final sustainability phase of the project, Russian implementers (led by AFEW Russia) developed different ways to present the results and findings of studies and research about young key populations conducted during the project for 6 different target audiences (in Russian): teachers, parents, doctors, social workers, psychologists, and other NGOs. Not only it allowed them to customize and adapt information to the needs and interests of each target groups in a comprehensive form, but they were also able to share these skills of developing targeted materials with 11 interested partner NGOs in a series of webinars.  They have also organised webinars for NGOs on how to present their achievements and projects to business representatives in order to get support for future impact.

For reference

AFEW International together with four other Alliance of the Bridging the Gaps partners (AFEW, MPACT Global, Mainline and Aidsfonds) implement the project ‘Young, Wild… and Free?’ aimed at sharing and scaling the best practices in reaching youth within the Bridging the Gaps and optimising HIV/SRHR related services for and engagement of young people in all elements of work.

Within this project, AFEW International’s local partners are Coalition of Harm Reduction NGOs “Outreach”, AFEW Ukraine, AFEW Russia and Public Health and Social Development Foundation “Focus-Media”. One of AFEW International’s roles in the project was to facilitate a learning visit for AFEW Russia and Focus-Media Foundation to Ukraine to learn from the best practices of AFEW-Ukraine in their work with young key populations.

 

For more details check the documents

A participatory youth-led research on the needs of young key populations. Do young key populations in Russia have access to sexual and reproductive health services?

 Lessons learned in the scale-up of good practices in reaching and engaging young key populations in Young, Wild and… Free? 

Flex Fund in Russia. Lessons learned.

In 2019 AFEW International together with four other Alliance of the Bridging the Gaps partners (AFEW, MPACT Global, Mainline, and Aidsfonds) started implementing the Bridging the Gaps Flex Fund “Young, wild and… free?” project aimed at sharing and scaling the best practices in reaching youth within the Bridging the Gaps and optimizing HIV/SRHR related services for and engagement of young people in all elements of work.

Within this project, members of Coalition of Harm Reduction NGOs “Outreach”, the AFEW International’s local partner, were introduced to the experience of Lighthouse (Vietnam). Based on the results of acquaintance with the best practices of Lighthouse, Outreach Coalition and its members identified multiple areas of work, among which were:

  • Strengthening the LGBTIQ movement
  • Development of friendly to the LGBTIQ community and young KP health facilities
  • Raising public awareness of gender and sexual diversity
  • Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
  • Online interventions and diversified delivery of services in the field of HIV prevention

These areas were taken up by different Coalition Outreach members and started being implemented at the end of 2020 through small grants projects.

Alexei Lahov, director of Coalition of Harm Reduction NGOs “Outreach”

The most important lesson learned from the activities of Flex Fund in Russia is that if we want to achieve success, we need to be innovative, creative, and open-minded. Especially when it comes to the drugs scene in the EECA region. 

For me, the biggest success within the project was the opportunity to distribute mini-grants among members of our coalition. Thanks to this, we were able to undertake several innovative activities, such as promoting sexual and reproductive health among MSM and people who practice chemsex. Also, we had some online activities. 

We aim to continue these activities in our coalition, and we will try to get additional funding to launch some more innovative approaches. Russians are good creators, and if they have funding, they will do their best. 

More updates you can read in the Change Story

Community-based participatory research for “Young, Wild and … free?”

The young representatives of the key populations vulnerable to HIV infection in Russia – people who use drugs, sex workers and members of the LGBT community, particularly men having sex with men – aged 18 to 24, constantly face difficulties in the access to the services in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV prevention and harm reduction.

To identify barriers of the young key populations in the access to such services, a community-based participatory research (CBPR) in the three regions of the Russian Federation was conducted by members of the Outreach Coalition – the Andrey Rylkov Fund (Moscow), regional public organization “Humanitarian Project” (Novosibirsk) and regional public organization “ARK – AntiAIDS” (Rostov-on-Don).  Financial support for the research was provided by AFEW International in the framework of the “Young, Wild and … free?” project.

What is Young, wild and… free?

“Young, wild and…free” is a project implemented by AFEW International together with four other BRIDGING THE GAPS: HEALTH & RIGHTS FOR KEY POPULATIONS partners (AFEW, MPACT Global, Mainline and Aidsfonds). The project aims at sharing and scaling the best practices in reaching youth within the Bridging the Gaps program and optimising HIV/SRHR related services for and engagement of young people in all elements of work. The program involves young community researchers from Russia, Vietnam, Kenya and South-Africa, representing key populations – young people who use drugs, sex workers and LGBTQ. The program started in March 2020 with a kick-off training for the Young, Wild and Free program, which took place in Amsterdam.

Sex Workers. Problems and solutions.

Within the research, regional public organization “ARK – AntiAIDS” was working to define problems of sex workers in Rostov-on-Don city, as well as their solutions. The main difficulties of sex workers turned out to be a lack of information about organizations providing HIV / SRHR prevention services (no advertising in the city); lack of services provided by state medical institutions; inaccessibility of HIV prevention services in state medical institutions for migrants on the territory of the Russian Federation (treatment, regular tests); high prices for services provided by private medical clinics.

Based on these problems, specialists developed some solutions for NGO to improve the situation. It was offered to introduce STI testing on the basis of a non-profit organization; to post information about HIV prevention services in polyclinics, antenatal clinics, private medical clinics; to post information about HIV prevention services on city facades, in public transport, in elevators, on billboards; to conduct large-scale events with the assistance of government agencies (AIDS Center, Ministry of Health) in shopping centres, at city events (City day, Youth day); to promote the website of the AIDS Centre on the Internet and to promote information from public and government organizations through bloggers, pop stars, movies.

Better promotion among MSM

The nesessity to promote test servises better among MSM via different social media, as well as other relevant projects for this key population was also mentioned in the research by the “Humanitarian Project” organization. During the research, specialists found out that MSM usually are not aware about all projects and services of the “Humanitarian Project”. Also, there is no sufficient effectiveness of communication through social networks. Lack of events, the format of which will be attractive and comfortable for young MSM, was also discovered.

Such a way, some recommendations were developed for “Humanitarian Project” and other organizations working with MSM. The researchers found important to advertise services in profile groups for gay dating in social networks and on websites with ads; to increase in the volume of targeted advertising on social networks (mainly on VKontakte and Instagram) of testing services and leisure activities as the most demanded by the community, to conduct professional media campaigns with the involvement of specialists in the field of PR, marketing and advertising; to implement of the practice of mass surveys on the needs for services and activities among young MSM; to work actively with opinion leaders (popular bloggers, club owners, drag queens, etc.), including on a commercial basis; to increase in the volume of targeted advertising on social networks (mainly on VKontakte and Instagram) of testing services and leisure activities as the most demanded by the community.

For people who use drugs

PUD key population was also a key group in the research. During the in-depth interviews, the researcher identified a number of needs and barriers to receiving HIV and SRHR prevention services at a Moscow organization Andrey Rylkov Fund.

During the research it was found that people who use drugs have difficulties in accessing information on available services, and that young people have a lack of understanding of the importance of regular HIV testing.

That is why it was recommended to Andrey Rylkov Fund to pay more attention to workshops on HIV and harm reduction, dissemination of information about possible psychological assistance, creation of an easily accessible knowledge base about all the available services of the Fund, and create high-quality, relevant content on harm reduction and HIV prevention.

Representatives of key populations

Enlisting the help of members of key populations is very important during a community-based participatory research. The involvement of representatives of key populations as interviewers made it possible to use their expertise and lived experience in developing proposals for nongovernmental organizations providing services in the field of SRHR, HIV prevention and harm reduction. Also, it allowed to quickly establish contact and rapport with respondents during in-depth interviews and focus groups, being on the same wavelength with them.

Alexei Lahov, director of Outreach Coalition

This research helped NGOs to improve their work, to promote their services and reach more people. According to feedback from researchers, the Positive Strategies Project started paying more attention to the specifics of working with young key populations – for instance, young representatives of MSM key populations have joined the staff of the Humanitarian Project organization, which implements the project. Based on recommendations from respondents of in-depth interviews and focus groups, the Andrey Rylkov Foundation launched a psychological counselling service for people who use drugs, including young PWID. NGO ARK – Anti-AIDS has become generally more active in working with young key populations, especially with members of the LGBT community.

 

More information about the “Young, Wild and … free?” project you can find here.

Exchanging experience between Russian and Ukrainian NGOs

For exchanging experience between Russian and Ukrainian non-governmental organizations working with most at risk adolescents, on July 20-22 a three-day study visit was organized in Ukraine. AFEW International also joined the meetings and had a great chance to meet with colleagues from AFEW-Russia, “Focus-Media”, the Coalition “Outreach” and Ukrainian NGO’s.

During these 3 days, the participants of the study tour visited the youth center Street Power of the NGO “Convictus-Ukraine” in Kyiv and the Day Center for most at risk adolescents “Compass” of the NGO “Blago” in Kharkiv. The staff of the centers gladly shared their unique methods for working with adolescents. The NGO “Blago” presented programmatic and methodological materials on working with adolescents who use drugs. The organization developed and implemented a programme on leadership potential for teenagers, a training program on harm reduction from the consequences of risky behavior for adolescents. Other rehabilitation programs for adolescents who use and/or are addicted to psychoactive substances were developed by NGO “Compass”. They also created interactive prevention quest “Drugs? Not my thing! ”, a game “Teenager inside out” and some other board preventive games, such as “Drugs? Not my thing!”, “Humans are not for sale” and online prevention tools to work during COVID-19 pandemic. The NGO Convictus-Ukraine presented their harm reduction lessons for young people and a volunteering school for teenagers.

As a result of the visit, colleagues from Russia and Ukraine are planning now some joint activities, in particular, to hold a series of online webinars for Russian professionals on how to use some presented practical tools for working with most at risk adolescents. It is expected that the webinars will be conducted in August-September 2021.

The exchange visit took place within the framework of the project “Bridging the Gaps Flexible Fund: Young, Wild … and Free?” with financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Ekateryna Artemenko, Project Manager, FOCUS MEDIA Foundation

For me, HIV service organizations in Ukraine have almost always been a reference point for organizing work. And so, in 2021, I was lucky to take part in a study tour to Ukraine. No guides, manuals, online conferences can ever replace live communication! After all, the opportunity to plunge into the atmosphere, to personally ask questions of colleagues – that is the key to the emergence of new ideas.

For me, a meeting with a team of Kharkiv partners was very practical and effective. Soon I want to organize an online trip to Ukrainian colleagues of our partners, so they could learn from their experience. Happy to share, that one of our meetings gave me an idea to develop materials for an information campaign on adolescents’ rights, including employment, as we are currently implementing a project targeting adolescents in several regions. Thanks for the visit, it was a great experience!

Training for Young, Wild and Free

In March, a kick-off training for the Young, Wild and Free program took place in Amsterdam. This project is a spin-off of the BRIDGING THE GAPS: HEALTH & RIGHTS FOR KEY POPULATIONS program, aimed at sharing and scaling the best practices in reaching youth within the Bridging the Gaps and optimizing services for and engagement of young people in all elements of work. The program involves young community researchers from Russia, Vietnam, Kenya and South-Africa, representing key populations – young drug users, sex workers and LGBTQ.

Bridging the Gaps

Bridging the Gaps works towards a world where sex workers, people who use drugs and LGBT people can use their human rights and access quality HIV prevention, treatment and care. Young key populations are always a special subject. They have different needs and requirements for (health) services, especially because each country has different laws, regulations and social norms which keeps them from accessing services. Also, limited data is available on young key populations as they are underrepresented in bio-behaviour studies. In order to increase both demand for and uptake of SRHR/HIV services by young key populations, the Young, Wild and Free program has been set up.

Young, Wild and Free

The goal of the Young, Wild and Free program is to identify the needs and demands for HIV/SRHR related services for young key populations in the four countries: Russia, Vietnam, Kenya and South-Africa, and use best practices of the Bridging the Gaps as pilots to serve these needs. The barriers and enabling factors in accessing these services for young key populations will be investigated by the young community researchers. Each country involved three young community researchers and one research coordinator.

The 2.5 day training

The kick-off meeting and training took place in Amsterdam where all researchers from the four countries could meet each other for the first time. It’s necessary to say that each researcher has strong connections with young key populations. All these people work each day in their country to fight stigma and discrimination against young key populations and want to contribute to better access to (SRHR and HIV) services for young key populations.

The goal of the 2.5 days training was to increase the participants’ research skills and was organized and given by the staff from Mainline Foundation.

Participants learned more about how to conceptualise youth & youth friendly services and how to conduct qualitative research, about research ethics and how to conduct an interview on sensitive and tabooed topics, how to organize group discussions.The training gave a great chance to people from various cultures connecting and engaging with each other.

AFEW’s role

The role of AFEW International during the kick-off training was supporting the young community researchers with feedback on how to do qualitative research. AFEW International is also the point of contact for the research coordinator from Russia. AFEW International will organise monthly progress meetings with the research team to discuss the progress, challenges and other issues related to the assessment. Also, input and feedback on the draft report from the research coordinator with regards to the quality will be provided.

Looking forward

After the workshop, the young community researchers will finalize their research protocol and start with data collection within their countries. Each country has to do at least ten interviews and one focus group discussion with each of the three key populations. The final report is due June 30th 2020 and will contribute to the body of knowledge on how to best reach and engage young key population members and to design culturally and age-appropriate (SRHR and HIV) services.