Interactive distribution

The key to this intervention Interactive distribution usually involves passing sexual health resources (including condoms and written interventions) from hand-to-hand in a range of locations - it is a means of delivery for other interventions and a foundation upon which other interventions can build. By initiating engagement or listening out for needs as they emerge, health promoters can better target their distribution.

What is the activity?

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

Interactive distribution 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, usually 1-to-1 information and advice.

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 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 up at their leisure.

Strengths and limitations

Interactive distribution allows providers to be strategic about the targeting of resources (for instance, to those attending specific settings, 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 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 MSM congregate in sufficient density, including:

  • Social and community events (such as Pride or Gay History Month events) sometimes accompanied by a stall where resources can be browsed, and which also draws people into discussions.
  • Other community settings such as MSM support centres, HIV service provider offices, support groups, and any place where talking and listening interventions are provided.
  • On foot during face-to-face outreach or detached work at commercial venues (such as clubs and bars, shops, and sex venues such as saunas) and in outdoor cruising areas.
  • 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, 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 or detached 1-to-1 information and advice 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.

Aims and outcomes

The aims and outcomes of interactive distribution depend crucially on what is being distributed and the extent to which the distribution is accompanied by talking and listening interventions, especially 1-to-1 information and advice. Overall the aims and outcomes are likely to be information-based or easy access to condoms and lubricant. The list below offers some examples:

  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 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).
  3. Increased access to appropriate condoms and water-based lubricant by ensuring men know where to access them and have the opportunities and resources to do so (see associated choices such as using 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 use them).

Monitoring and evaluation

Interactive distribution is a means of ensuring that sexual health resources are effectively and efficiently distributed to their target population. In terms of outcomes and impact, very little priority is given to evaluation of distribution interventions.

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 June 2013

Case study

Outreach to distribute resources

Trade Sexual Health in Leicester undertakes outreach in gay bars and clubs as a means of giving out safer sex resources including condoms and written materials. For example, to promote the national GMFA CHAPS campaign Count Me In, outreach workers created a sandwich board promoting the campaign and asked men to “sign up” to it by putting their thumb prints onto the “hand” printed on the board.  Men were also given Count Me In leaflets to take away. The outreach worker also organised entry discounts to clubs for men wearing the wrist band distributed with this campaign. This enabled workers and volunteers to see who had been approached and ensured men were actively seeking the worker to get a wrist band.

Case study

Outreach support materials

Outreach support materials (‘knick knacks’) have been central to CHAPS national campaigns for the last decade. They facilitate face-to-face interventions between workers and men and are highly valued by outreach staff as an aid to their work. Knick knacks typically cost around 50p - £1 per unit, and carry the core campaign message (and website address). Evaluation shows they work best when they are high quality, with a practical use and relate to the campaign topic. They also aid in targeting sub-populations: button badges and lip balm were chosen to increase younger men’s engagement with a recent condom campaign as previous experience showed these had particular appeal with this group.

Case study

Outreach on cruising sites

Information and advice is provided by The Eddystone Trust through outreach to a busy cruising site in Devon. Workers engage with MSM who may not identify as gay or bisexual including conversations about HIV and STIs. Workers have discussions about relationships and managing expectations of pleasure and risk. Relationships developed with regular cruisers help to pass information into networks if there is an STI outbreak or new dangers in cruising areas. The site poses challenges, following complaints of littering and concerns from statutory bodies. Building and maintaining relationships with the police and statutory authorities, and community engagement has been key to these concerns.