“It’s hard to change something when you don’t know where to start”: Unpacking HIV Vulnerability with Aboriginal Youth in Canada






As a result of social and economic inequities, Indigenous youth globally are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Canada’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people are among them. In this paper, we discuss the collaborative community-based approach we adopted to uncover new possibilities for HIV prevention with Aboriginal youth that account for systemic inequities. This project is part of a larger Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) research agenda.


We conducted 6 focus groups with 61 Aboriginal youth in Quebec and Ontario. An inductive approach guided analyses. Data were coded using Nud*ist qualitative data management software and collaboratively analyzed for main themes.


Youth discussed their divergent understandings of the links between colonialism, traditional knowledge(s), and HIV risk in relation to gender inequities, stigma, and involving multiple stakeholders in the HIV response.


New prevention approaches relating HIV risk to colonial legacies are necessary. Recommendations for future research and intervention development include: an analysis of systemic inequities in HIV prevention education, focusing on stigma reduction, building wide-spread community support, acknowledging diversity across Aboriginal peoples, and increasing active youth (peer) engagement.

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