Best Practices – Peer Educators

Education delivered by peers has in many settings been found to have more impact than more formal and hierarchical methods.1

As the International Labour Organization points out, women often have little control over their own lives. They are susceptible to HIV infection due to social, cultural and economic factors. Poor working conditions if they have jobs. Low wages or patchy, irregular income.

You might want to consider adopting elements of the following example of best practices in your workplace.

Best practices and peer education: an example

In Ghana, a peer education pilot project for hairdressers and their apprentices selected educators on the basis of communication skills and attitude. Then they were trained. The report Workplace action on HIV/AIDS spells out the project’s lessons for best practices:

  • Building on existing informal sector organizations helps ensure the “right” peer educators are selected and the “right” materials are developed. It establishes credibility and gives access to workers.
  • Not all peer educators should be sub-sector or community leaders. Younger workers and apprentices will be most effective at reaching their contemporaries.
  • Time is a major constraint for workers in the informal sector and this needs to be taken into consideration in planning training activities and in making demands on peer educators.
  • Small amounts of funding can enable informal sector workers to spend time on peer education, including outreach work beyond their immediate circle of contacts.
  • Activities in the informal economy must consider the context, the impact of poverty and the lack of health services. Including business skills in training programs and linking projects to micro-finance schemes can help attract interest and address wider issues such as employment creation, especially for youth.
  • Working in women-only groups helps individuals express themselves with confidence and learn from each other.
  • Personal risk assessments should include practical sessions addressing the reality of risk and issues like negotiating condom use, discussing HIV status with a partner and so on.
  • Tools like role-play that allow people to “practice” how to handle difficult situations are useful ways of allowing people to rehearse how they will respond to sensitive situations.
  • Peer educators can facilitate risk assessment but need to be supported themselves, ideally through regular support sessions and through additional training.
  • Trust is crucial to success and prioritizing privacy and confidentiality builds confidence.
  • Providing highly active anti-retroviral treatment creates a significant incentive for voluntary counselling and testing uptake and sustaining safer sexual behaviour.


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1 Workplace action on HIV/AIDS: identifying and sharing best practice, background report for tripartite inter-regional meeting on best practices in HIV/AIDS workplace policies and programs, International Labour Organization, December 2003