Young Women Lead, Evidence, Advocate, Research, Network (LEARN) was a two-year project funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief  (PEPFAR) as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. LEARN, led by the ATHENA Initiative and our community partners Personal Initiative for Positive Empowerment (PIPE) and the International Community of Women living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA), aimed to promote an HIV prevention agenda informed by the meaningful participation of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in research that affects their lives. The project worked in three districts in Uganda (Mityana, Mubende and Mukono) and two counties in Kenya (Homa Bay and Nairobi).

LEARN was designed to support effective roll-out and uptake of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) among AGYW in Kenya and Uganda and to ensure that PrEP implementation is responsive to the needs, rights, priorities, and preferences of AGYW in all of their diversity.

The LEARN project aimed to support effective rollout and uptake of PrEP among AGYW in Kenya and Uganda, through creating an evidence base to support implementation that is responsive to the needs, rights, priorities and preferences of AGYW in all of their diversity. 

The LEARN model

LEARN involved three distinct but mutually supportive areas of activity: mobilization, research and advocacy.

  1. Peer and community mobilization: LEARN Ambassadors, supported by Peer Mobilizers, held mobilization activities in their local communities where AGYW were reached with PrEP information and were able to ask questions and share experiences.
  2. Qualitative research: the Ambassadors convened Community Dialogues with AGYW in their communities using participatory methodologies to explore knowledge, views and preferences about PrEP.
  3. Locally owned and informed evidence-based advocacy: the Ambassadors were supported and mentored to develop advocacy agendas based on the research findings to inform, shape and contribute to the body of knowledge on HIV prevention with a particular focus on PrEP, and to advocate with key stakeholders and decision-makers.

Ten young women were recruited as LEARN Ambassadors and trained in peer research skills, to lead community based research, with AGYW in their communities. Taking the form of Community Dialogues, the research intervention involved up to 25 participants, led by two young women (LEARN Ambassadors) and supported by project staff who attended each Dialogue. The dialogues utilized a mix of research methods and information sharing activities to inform participants and gather their
views, priorities and preferences for HIV prevention, including new prevention technologies such as PrEP.

Project achievements

  • Residential skills building workshop – In May 2017, we hosted a 5 day residential skills building workshop with the LEARN Ambassadors in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop aimed to begin the process of equipping them with a sound knowledge of PrEP, its use and access; the skills to shape and conduct participatory research; and the ability to translate their findings into an action agenda, targeted at policy, research, or service design.
  • Launch event – in May 2017, ATHENA hosted a project launch in Nairobi which provided a great platform to share information on the LEARN project and build partnerships with other stakeholder working on HIV prevention, care, treatment and support for AGYW. The Ambassadors took leadership in this event and highlighted the need for commitment to invest in AGYW put them at the center of research and policy enactment.
  • Global Reference Group (GRG) – an advisory body to the project has been convened to provide guidance and expertise to the project. Collectively they represent a pool of knowledge that will enhance the LEARN project.
  • Peer mobilization activities - the LEARN Ambassadors mentored AGYW in their districts as peer mobilizers to raise awareness around PrEP within the context of a broader dialogue around HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Each Ambassador supported 10 AGYW peer mobilizers.
  • Research symposiums - in September 2018 we held research symposiums in Nairobi and Kampala to launch the LEARN research findings and engage with stakeholders. The events were well-attended and secured commitments from key policy and decision-makers.

Key Documents and Links

LEARN Year 1 Review

Summary Workshop Report

LEARN Video for DREAMS-IC 

ATHENA Initiative, review of PrEP and AGYW 

Young Women LEARN Project Update