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Obstacles to creating an environment conducive to HIV prevention for young people

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The external environment of an organisation influences the desired goals and interventions of that organisation in many ways. However, strategies for influencing the external context to create a more enabling environment for the interventions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are often inadequately addressed. This article draws on an empirical multiple-case study conducted in 2007/08 of four NGOs providing HIV-prevention services to young people in several low-resource, high-HIV-prevalence communities in Cape Town, South Africa. In an earlier study, young people reported that the external environment hampered their ability to institutionalise HIV-prevention messages. The current study explored how the NGOs endeavoured to influence the external environment, and the challenges they faced. The findings show that the NGOs practised a combination of strategies, encompassing inter-organisational relationships, influencing policy, and championing by example. Key constraints to their influencing practices included fear of losing legitimacy as a service provider; inadequate knowledge, skills and opportunity; perceived deviation from their usual work; inadequate funding; conflicts over values and messages; and a habit of focusing more on young people's individual behaviours and less on context. The development management task of influencing the external environment to create an environment more conducive to HIV prevention seemed constrained mainly because: 1) donors focused on funding and monitoring the activities they were interested in and conceptualised as HIV-prevention services; 2) NGO efforts were restricted to programme implementation based on agreed deliverables, thus influencing was mainly confined to championing by example; consequently, 3) ‘influencing efforts’ to create an environment more conducive to HIV prevention were left mainly to young people themselves, who can affect their peers only to a narrow, albeit crucial extent. The external environment thus remains adverse to HIV prevention.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; South Africa; development management; multiple-case study; non-governmental organisations; public sector; social change; strategic planning; youth

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Cape TownAdolescent Health Research Unit, 46 Sawkins Road, Rondebosch7700,Cape Town, South Africa 2: Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, Centre for Public Mental Health,University of Cape Town, 46 Sawkins Road, Rondebosch7700,Cape Town, South Africa

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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