Supporting Peer Leaders

Retention strategies are necessary to keep young leaders engaged in HIV prevention activities. Ongoing support for recruited and trained peer leaders will keep them engaged and effective and, in turn, ensure a program's success.

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Tips from School-Based Health Alliance on where to recruit and how to retain peer leaders.

Program planners who are thoughtful about ongoing support will have strong peer-led programs.

  1. Establish expectations. A written agreement with peer leaders can serve as a reminder of tasks and responsibilities that youth and adults agreed to.
  2. Supervise peer leaders continuously. With experience, peer leaders may take on more responsibility; however, program planners should not leave them completely alone.
  3. Encourage peer leaders and offer positive reinforcement. Peer leaders will benefit from recognition for their work. This could be through praise, awards, or credit (for youth in school-based programs). Peer leaders who summarize their skills and accomplishments on their resumes may have opportunities beyond the scope of the program.
  4. Create community of leaders. Schedule meetings for peer leaders to share their experiences. This will help them learn to work together, share strategies, and develop friendships.
  5. Provide incentives and opportunities. Many youth will engage more if they feel like they are getting something out of their participation. Some leaders will be satisfied with the idea of giving back or making a difference, while others will be motivated by opportunities to build skills, or their networks, add to their resumes, or take on more advanced roles and responsibilities. If financially viable, some programs will consider stipends or rewards.
  6. Build young people's personal strengths and assetsThis will support the healthy and positive development of peer leaders and reduce their HIV risk behaviors.

Youth involvement at every stage of design, implementation, and participatory evaluation will maximize program success. 

Page last updated: May 2017