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Responding to What Young People Really Want to Know: Developing Question-Answer Booklets on Sexuality, HIV and AIDS with Young People

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Subtitle: 
German Health Practice Collection
Author: 
Regina Görgen
Akwilina Mlay
Babette Pfander
Siegrid Tautz
Affiliation: 

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ)

Publication Date

December 1, 2007

This 32-page report, published by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), presents an experience of developing a set of question and answer sex education booklets designed to meet the needs of young people. According to the report, young people themselves know most about their information and communication needs. As stated here, there is little doubt among youth experts that active involvement of young people in designing information and education approaches is a prerequisite for successfully meeting their informational needs. This has, however, not often been translated into practice. According to the report, youth’s real questions about puberty, the opposite sex, love and sexuality, and pregnancy and how to prevent it are often ignored. For young people, prevention of HIV infection is one area of interest, but it is neither the only nor the most important one.

The report outlines the approach taken by the project organisers in developing the materials and includes a number of steps that, according to the authors, make the approach easily adaptable to different socio-cultural settings. The steps are listed as follows:

  • baseline study on youth's knowledge, attitudes, and practices relating to reproductive health;
  • collection of young people's questions on various topics related to sexual health;
  • screening, analysis, and categorising of questions with young people;
  • developing answers in a multidisciplinary team including youth;
  • design of illustrations by youth or together with youth;
  • review and field test answers and illustrations;
  • broad dissemination of the product; and
  • monitoring and evaluation.

The impact of the booklets on adolescents was documented and analysed for the initial project in Tanzania. According to the report, letters sent to the booklet editors indicated that both young people and educators wanted more copies, and that the booklets were highly appreciated, particularly among primary and secondary school students, youth clubs, and institutions working with youth. Face-to-face interviews were also conducted to assess how well the books were being used and understood, as well as their effect on young people's knowledge and behavioural intentions. The study found that although most respondents had seen copies of the books, not all had their own copies. Some booklets were preferred over others, mainly due to the great need to fill certain information gaps. The main messages were well understood, and the images were easily interpreted.

The report includes a number of lessons organisers learned during implementation. These include:

  • Involve young people in the development of educational material.
  • Offer short, simple, easy-to-read material, which is often read even in a non-reading culture.
  • Do not use jargon or reformulate young people's questions in technical terms. If a question includes a slang or common term, perhaps that is the most accessible and therefore most appropriate word to use. Keep questions and answers genuine.
  • Look with a broader view and not with an HIV/AIDS perspective only. For example, friendship, sex, and love are more exciting areas for young people than disease and disease prevention.
  • Consider project and product ownership. Government ownership is not necessarily appropriate, as leading decision makers are often conservative and not keen to take risks.
  • For culturally sensitive products, follow all steps described in the approach to achieve those results.


In conclusion, the report considers the approach a "promising practice" because: the process and results were closely monitored; there is considerable demand for more booklets; its transferability and replicability are major strengths; the process is highly participatory and empowering; it is comparatively cost-effective; and it gives a voice to young people who are usually the focus of 'expert-based' health education.

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