Partner reduction has been identified as an important approach to reducing the risk of HIV transmission at the individual and population levels. Although young people report having multiple sexual partners, few HIV prevention programs for youth address this important driver of the HIV epidemic. This brings several critical questions to mind:
- How can the topic of multiple sexual partners be overlooked when young people admit to engaging in this risky behavior?
- Why do young people engage in these risky sexual relationships?
- How can youth program staff discuss this important topic without resources and activities to support their work?
These are some of the core questions that led to the development of Promoting Partner Reduction: Helping Young People Understand and Avoid HIV Risks from Multiple Partnerships (PPR). FHI 360 (on behalf of USAID’s IYWG) and ETR Associates created PPR to address a gap in resources. The late Dr. Doug Kirby was a major contributor to this document.
PPR is an evidence-based, participatory set of activities designed to positively affect young peoples’ knowledge, attitudes, values, and intentions to reduce multiple partnerships. The resource contains seventeen activities designed to address multiple partnerships in young people, with an emphasis on those that are overlapping or concurrent (sometimes referred to as “multiple concurrent partnerships” or MCP). The activities were developed with the input of experts around the world and were field-tested among young people in the United States, Botswana and Kenya, and recently piloted by programs in South Africa and Swaziland. Promoting Partner Reduction will help young people:
- Learn why HIV spreads at different rates in monogamous, sequential, and concurrent sexual partnerships
- Analyze the reasons why young people engage in multiple partnerships
- Develop the intention to reduce their number of sexual partners
- Practice skills to refuse engaging with concurrent partners
- Examine the role that gender norms play in encouraging multiple partners
By moving beyond the simple message of “avoid multiple partners to protect oneself from HIV,” PPR provides a forum for young people to discuss complex topics such as transactional sex, partner reduction, intergenerational sex, gender and cultural norms, and behavior change through role plays, icebreakers, storytelling, and other engaging activities. Discussion questions and additional activities give special consideration to gender, sexual orientation, HIV status and participants’ experience with violence. Its participatory approach is designed to motivate young people to change their high-risk behaviors.
Results from a three-month pilot intervention found that youth program staff recognize a need for PPR, feel prepared to implement activities, intend to use it, and have a plan for integrating the activities into existing programs. The following quotes highlight their enthusiasm about the need for this new resource:
“Prior to the training, we did not have a specific tool that focuses on addressing partner reduction. It was not discussed in detail in our program.”
“This tool is so important to give out information to youth…whether in church, door to door, home-based, clinic or youth centre. We need this resource. “
“Most youth living in urban areas or townships, they engage in MCP because they think it’s cool…even though they know the risks.”
Could your program benefit from this resource? Are there young people in your community engaging in multiple sexual partnerships? Perhaps PPR can help you get the conversation started about this often taboo and complicated topic. Promoting Partner Reduction is available electronically on the IYWG website, http://www.iywg.org. To order additional hard copies or a flash drive with a PDF of the publication, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or to FHI 360, P.O. Box 13950, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA.