Partnerships are important because they can lay the foundation for increased capacity. We at 4 Youth by Youth (4YBY) rely on our global health partnerships to help us reach youth and allow for youth to be at the forefront of research endeavors. This introduces us to innovative ways to help drive health messages in various communities. Without our global health partnerships, much of the research and training that happens with 4YBY could not be done. Over the past year, our partners have inspired us to persevere in the work we do when it comes to bringing resources to underserved settings and raising youth voices when addressing things we may miss at the institutional level; those that are needed for continuous health resource sustainability. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a new process for many of us, we at 4YBY are even more encouraged to keep up the work we do, highlight innovative youth health solutions, and remember the importance of increased collaboration for improved, positive health outcomes.
What global partnerships mean for the Innovative Tools to Expand Youth-Friendly HIV Self-Testing (I-TEST) grant is the power to reach more youth that may not otherwise have participated. With partners like the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), I-TEST has been able to understand the needs of young Nigerians and what research and proposed health interventions, like HIV self-testing (HIVST), means for young people. The power of partnerships in reaching youth and learning how to make sense of health interventions is important when thinking about intervention longevity and when informing future health interventions that address issues in low-resource communities.
Our I-TEST global health partners have been very resilient over the past year. Amid the pandemic, our partners have shown what it means to adapt to new ways of engaging, learning, and determining the best outcomes for our youth. There have been limitations concerning how global health research is conducted. At the university level, the ability to travel to do more front-line work has been halted due to COVID-19, yet this has not stopped the work that has been done, and is currently being done, in Nigeria around youth-friendly HIVST uptake. The passion that our global partners have displayed when joining early or late meetings to give other members of the 4YBY team updates about progress and recommendations for future goals is what carries 4YBY. Real-world training has taken place with in-place safety measures where our global partners have been able to secure strategies that inform the randomized control roll-out and secure positions for youth facilitators and other community gatekeepers in different local government areas. While current times can be very challenging, 4YBY is very grateful for the ability to continue to do work globally that impacts youth health outcomes.
When thinking about why partnerships matter for research activities, the answer lies in the power of “We.” The work that 4YBY does would not be what it is without its partners. The time, energy, resilience, adaptability, patience, and honor that our partners have is to be commended. Throughout the pandemic, there has been some uncertainty around how to engage in meaningful research activities, especially amid positive COVID-19 cases. To address this, 4YBY has been committed to new ways of thinking, new ways of communicating, new ways of ensuring sustainable measures for safety when conducting research, new ways of creating meaningful engagement in the virtual world, and recognizing that reaching out when uncertain and relying on each other is important. Partnerships allow us to remember that when creating sustainable youth-friendly health services, the work is in the power of “We.” Collaborative efforts help current and future generations of young people. 4YBY is committed to its partners and making sure that youth feel that they have partners when doing work that is meaningful and work that will lead the next generation to a more healthy, equitable, and youth-friendly world.