Understanding aboriginal youths' experiences with sexual health services and HIV/STI testing in New Brunswick through the lens of sex, gender, and place

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University of New Brunswick


In Canada, young Aboriginal men and women are faced with growing STI rates and an HIV epidemic. Individuals affected with HIV or other STIs experience negative health outcomes, which have serious implications for society at large. Historical and present day social conditions interact and impact on the vulnerability of the Aboriginal population. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to enhance the public health understanding of Aboriginal youths’ experiences with sexual health services, thus acknowledging their own values and practices, along with their interaction with sex, gender, place, and other important factors that influence their sexual health-seeking behaviours. A community-based qualitative process using document retrieval, individual interviews, and participant observation sought to understand youths’ lived experiences of accessing sexual health services and HIV/STI testing. A purposeful sample of 20 Aboriginal youths was used for this study. Thematic analysis was informed by all data sources (i.e. interviews, observations, and document retrieval) and was carried out to examine and interpret the data for codes, categories, and themes. This process helped identify the recurring patterns of similarities and differences that shape youths’ experiences and create barriers in the context of sexual health. Four themes were identified in regard to access: funding and legislative bodies, intergenerational shaping of sexual health, sexual health places and education, and perceptions of sexual health services and HIV/STI testing. From these themes and subthemes several recommendations are presented in relation to sexual health policies, programs, and services. It is vital that health providers and policy makers work with a culturally competent and gender-based approach that is sensitive to the many processes that interact to influence the sexual health of youth living in a rural First Nation community.