Robyn Dayton is a technical officer on FHI 360’s Research Utilization Youth Team.

Many people, this blogger included, work to create new tools for youth HIV prevention. The result— depending on which listservs you subscribe to—could be news about a new tool in your inbox each week (if not each day). 

And quite often, these tools seem extremely useful. But do we know what happens to them after they are sent out into the wide world of the Internet or after hard copies get shipped across the globe? Are the tools we are creating being used? By whom? And, even more importantly, are they making a difference?

FHI 360, with support from USAID’s IYWG, had the opportunity to find out how tools it published to improve HIV counseling and testing services for youth—both a manual for providers (2007) and the associated training guide (2008)—have been used since their release. We were able to talk to users of these tools from all over the world, and we were happy about what we heard. People not only really like these tools (96% of respondents reported satisfaction) and share them (reported by 70% of respondents), they learned from them (almost 100% reported increased knowledge) and changed the services they offered because of them (75% reported changed behavior in clinics). Check out some of their quotations below to get a sense of what else people had to say.

“In Indonesia, there is homophobia. After the manual I no longer judge young people based on this [sexual orientation].” – Indonesian service provider

“At first, before training, I thought of youth as drug users, bad people, now very big friends, nice people who can be used to do good things.” –Kenyan HIV counselor

“Before I was trained, for example, if the youth came out positive I would even scold them – ‘you are misbehaving.’  But after training, I take into consideration their risk behaviors and now I understand what they go through.” –Zambian nurse

What’s more, the impact of these tools goes far beyond individuals—these resources have had an impact at the national level. The manual informed the national policy on HIV counseling and testing in Guyana and was used to create a national curriculum for health providers in Botswana. For the past four years, it has been in use across Zambia to train both nurses and HIV counselors to improve their interactions with young clients. (How these tools are used in Zambia and what program staff have done to make global tools more locally relevant will be described in an upcoming blog post.)

As anyone who has created something they hoped would benefit others can imagine, it was inspiring to learn how these tools have been used and the impact they have had. It was also very informative.  We found out which parts of these tools were most helpful, how to make new resources more useful, and how best to get tools into the hands of those who will most benefit from them. Since we were talking directly with people who provide HIV testing to youth, we also got their take on what else is needed— things like support groups for the adolescents they give positive HIV results to—that provide information about what’s necessary in the next generation of tools. 

So, whether it is for your own sense of purpose, or because you know that future products will be that much better for it, try to learn what happens after you press “send” on that new tool you’re creating.  Feeling inspired to do HIV prevention work is vital, and what can be more inspiring than hearing something like this from a young person in Zambia who encourages other youth to get tested at his clinic: “After the training on the manual everything changed. We’ve managed to overcome stigmatization — not just in clinic but in the community.  We are also making our activities better. Our office is always busy now with lots of youth.”