Group information and advice

The key to this intervention Talking interventions delivered to groups are usually educational, and encourage people to examine the potential consequences of their choices rather than telling them how to behave.

What is the activity?

Information and advice interventions directed at groups can stand alone or be part of a larger event. During a fixed time slot, participants hear about HIV (prevention) from trained health promoters, and can get  advice regarding specific issues (for instance, during a Question and Answer session).

This activity is often conducted through more traditional groupwork events as is widely known as workshops. However it can also involve information being imparted in other engaging formats such as through debates and discussions, theatre and performance or quizzes and games.

Depending on the setting, group facilitators should also be able to signpost relevant services, provide sexual health resources, and provide 1-to-1 information and advice where required (or make arrangements to do so at a later time).

Group therapeutic interventions and support groups offer a more in-depth and user-led approach, usually over longer periods of time, and are discussed elsewhere.

Strengths and limitations

Educational events help to give a sense that sexual health is an issue for open discussion among MSM. Hearing information from trusted experts, and having an opportunity to ask questions and engage can increase motivation to seek other interventions and services.

The administration, advertising and delivery of group events require considerable time, effort and skill. For these reasons they can be cost intensive, yet their unit cost (cost per service user) can be lower than many other face-to-face interventions because many more people can benefit.

Grouo information and advice interventions are usually topic-led rather than client-based. Therefore, some people in any given group will hear things they already know, and some will miss out on things that they would have liked to have known.

Information-giving on its own does not meet all HIV prevention needs. In particular, it does not help to address situations where a person’s limited power prevents them from avoiding HIV exposure and transmission.

Where does it happen?

These interventions are often delivered face-to-face by workers who can speak to and facilitate large or small groups. They usually last an hour or two, and can be part of a larger event. Such events may require the organisation of formal venues and catering, whereas smaller informal settings can also be used. Settings include (but are not limited to):

  • cultural and community venues (such as town halls, libraries, community halls);
  • commercial venues (such as pubs, clubs, hotels or conference facilities);
  • the offices of service providers (including NHS and voluntary sector services);

Frequently delivered alongside ...

Issues to consider

Those with the greatest social skills, confidence and interest in a topic are the most likely to want to increase their knowledge. This can lead to a pattern where repeat attendees are the ones who fill available spaces, rather than those in greatest need. Carefully considered advertising and interventions that take place as a part of broader events, in partnership with other service providers, can help group information and advice interventions to reach those in greatest need.

Self-referral is often the key to such interventions. This means they require that MSM recognise their information deficits and have sufficient motivation to address them. This motivation is more likely when the person and / or agency providing the intervention is trusted, and also when potential participants are aware of the likely benefits.

Facilitators will require training and experience with a variety of communication techniques. Knowledge on its own is not sufficient, as facilitators will need to deliver the intervention in a way that is engaging and non-judgmental, and which recognises the diverse values and learning preferences of participants.

Aims and outcomes

Expected outcomes are primarily knowledge-based, but group information and advice sessions can address motivation and simple skills such as using a condom appropriately. The list below offers some examples of aims and likely outcomes for group information and advice, depending on the content of the intervention, but is not exhaustive.

  1. Increased motivation to avoid HIV exposure and transmission (see associated choice and some of the basic information, opportunities and resources and skills needed).
  2. Increased uptake of STI screening and HIV testing (see associated choiceand potential aims associated with HIV testing knowledge; STI knowledge; and the testing opportunitiesand skills required).
  3. Increased understanding that different sexual activities carry differing risks of HIV transmission (see associated choices such as avoiding anal intercourse or using condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the risks associated with anal intercourse and the benefits of condom use).
  4. Increased confidence to openly discuss sex, sexuality, and sexual health with partners and in social networks, including the resources and skills to share information with partners and to decline sexual contact.
  5. Increased understanding of the benefits of condom use for anal intercourse (see associated choice regarding condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the benefits of condom use and having the resources and opportunities to access them and the skills to appropriately use them).
  6. Increased confidence to decline any unwanted sexual activity or defer having new sexual partners and associated aims, such as knowing the increased risks associated with having higher numbers of male partners.
  7. Increased understanding of the alternatives to risky behaviour (see associated choices such as avoiding anal intercourse or using condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the risks associated with anal intercourse and the benefits of condom use).
  8. Increased understanding of means of HIV risk reduction when unprotected anal intercourse does occur (see associated choices such as withdrawal before ejaculation and the knowledge and skills required).

Monitoring and evaluation

The use of access evaluation tools can provide agencies with a basic demographic profile (age, ethnicity, gender, area of residence etc.) of the people using group information and advice interventions.

Short self-completion questionnaires may also be used to help determine the effectiveness of interventions. These may ask users to fill in some questions prior to the intervention, and others afterwards in order to assess changes in knowledge, beliefs or attitudes. Support from researchers is useful in order to ensure that such tools are used effectively.

More complex research techniques (for instance, in-depth interviews) can be used in order to undertake longer-term follow up. However, the cost and commitment required is considerable, and the collection and management of individual service users’ personal details is necessary.

Page last updated: 17 June 2013

Case study

Black Gay Men’s Group

Facilitated and supported by a community development worker from Yorkshire MESMAC, a Black Gay Men’s Group was set up in February 2011. It was established following a survey of black MSM in the Yorkshire region, which indicated they were looking for a safe space to meet other black MSM and to receive and build peer support. Initially some men were concerned about being ‘outed’ by joining the meetings but a core group of men were instrumental in recruiting peers and friends. The group addresses the needs men bring, rather than a set programme. This includes support with coming out; learning about gay culture and history; dealing with homophobia and discrimination; sexual health and developing relationships and friendships.

Case study

Big Up film

Big Up at GMFAs film ‘Beyond Labels’ premiered at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2010. The film explores the experiences of black gay men in London from the time of gay liberation through to recent arrivals on the scene. The film provides tales of friendship and support to underlie an investigation into the creation of a sense of community. Following its launch, the film was shown at a community cinema in East London with a panel of the films collaborators taking part in a facilitated discussion with the audience. Showing the film in this context allows further exploration of the issues raised. It also allows community advocates to discuss how to improve the health of black gay men and for black gay men and their allies to voice their opinions and concerns about the options open to them.

Case study

National groupwork coordination

GMFAs national groupwork programme delivers information based workshops to men in collaboration with CHAPS partners across England. Staff and volunteers at GMFA develop and pilot the interventions and work alongside staff and volunteers in other agencies to deliver groups. GMFA offer trained facilitators to work alongside, to train or mentor local trainers and provide additional training for specific workshops. Standards ensure that trainers meet core competencies and a central evaluation system assists in maintaining those standards and informing the development of future workshops. The CHAPS  funded programme reduces costs by centralising workshop development and by coordinating recruitment of men to groups.