Guidelines for Conducting Participatory Social Research with Key Populations and Marginalised Communities

1. Introduction

These guidelines have been developed as part of the Key Populations – Representation, Evidence and Advocacy for Change in Health (KP REACH) programme. KP REACH focuses on community systems strengthening to reduce HIV infections and HIV-related deaths among key populations in Southern Africa. This is expected to be achieved through improved access by members of these target groups to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. KP REACH is invested in, and supports, a genuinely KP-led approach to tackling high levels of HIV infection among key populations and other marginalised communities.

KP REACH works in 8 Southern African countries with three key population communities – men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people. Key populations face much higher rates of HIV infection and AIDS than the general population and are most at risk for contracting the virus. Women who have sex with women (WSW) have been included in KP REACH under the rubric of “other marginalised communities”, due to the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression they face; as well as the grave impact of the historical and ongoing neglect of women who have sex with women in relation to HIV programming. In addition, the strong and active role that WSW networks play in movement building, advocacy for sexual rights, sexual diversity and bodily integrity, coupled with the lessons learned in network and alliance building that they can share, makes WSW networks and member organisations an asset to the programme.

The KP REACH network1 has developed these guidelines for use by the network members, partner organisations and any other interested groups or individuals, for reference in conducting participatory research on key populations. These guidelines are developed for four primary purposes:

  • To identify, and close, gaps in knowledge on key populations and other marginalised communities; and develop a participatory research agenda
  • To provide standards of engagement in social research, for key populations and other marginalised communities
  • To put key populations and other marginalised communities at the centre of knowledge
  • production in all research involving them
  • To empower key populations and other marginalised communities being researched to
  • be an integral part of the research process, beyond being subjects.

These guidelines are structured according to the following sub-categories:

  •  Ethics and informed consent
  • Guiding principles
  • •Participatory research methods
  • •Research design process

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