Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 179–182 | Cite as

HIV Risk, Systemic Inequities, and Aboriginal Youth

Widening the Circle for HIV Prevention Programming
  • June LarkinEmail author
  • Sarah Flicker
  • Ruth Koleszar-Green
  • Susan Mintz
  • Michelle Dagnino
  • Claudia Mitchell



In Canada, Aboriginal people are overrepresented in the HIV epidemic and infected at a younger age than non-Aboriginal people. This paper discusses some of the ways Aboriginal youth in Toronto understand HIV/AIDS risk and the relevance of their comments for HIV prevention education. This research is part of a larger study conducted with Ontario youth through the Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) project.


We conducted 11 GAAP focus groups with Ontario youth. This paper focuses primarily on the four groups of Aboriginal youth. A modified grounded theory approach guided analyses. Data were coded using Nud*ist qualitative data management software.


Aboriginal youth were more aware of HIV/AIDS and the structural inequities that contribute to risk than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. In addition, they were the only group to talk about colonialism in the context of HIV in their community. Aboriginal youth were, however, more likely to hold a fatalistic view of their future and to blame their own community for high infection rates.


We argue for incorporating structural factors of risk, including the legacy of colonialism, in HIV prevention programs for all youth. This may help to eradicate the stigma and self-blame that negatively impact on Aboriginal youth while allowing other youth populations to distance themselves from the disease.

MeSH terms

Aboriginal adolescent HIV risk prevention colonialism 



Au Canada, les Autochtones sont surreprésentés dans l’épidémie de VIH, et ils sont infectés à un âge moins avancé que les non-Autochtones. Dans cet article, il est question de la perception du risque de contracter le VIH chez les jeunes Autochtones de Toronto et de la pertinence des commentaires de ces jeunes pour les programmes d’éducation visant à prévenir le VIH. Cette étude s’inscrit dans une étude de plus grande envergure menée auprès des jeunes Ontariens dans le cadre du projet GAAP (Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention).


Nous avons organisé 11 groupes de discussion GAAP avec des jeunes Ontariens. Dans cet article, nous nous intéressons principalement aux quatre groupes composés de jeunes Autochtones. Nos analyses se sont inspirées d’une approche théorique à base empirique modifiée. Les données ont été codées à l’aide du logiciel de gestion de données qualitatives Nud*ist.


Les jeunes Autochtones étaient plus conscientisés que leurs concitoyens non- Autochtones au VIH et au sida, ainsi qu’aux inégalités structurelles qui font augmenter le risque de contracter le virus. De plus, ils ont été les seuls à parler du colonialisme dans le contexte du VIH dans leur communauté. Les jeunes Autochtones étaient cependant plus susceptibles d’envisager l’avenir avec fatalisme et de blâmer leur propre communauté pour les taux d’infection élevés qui y prévalent.


Nous préconisons l’intégration de facteurs de risque structurels, y compris l’héritage du colonialisme, dans les programmes de prévention du VIH, et ce, pour tous les jeunes. Cette mesure pourrait contribuer à éradiquer la stigmatisation et l’auto-accusation dont souffrent les jeunes Autochtones tout en permettant aux autres groupes de jeunes de prendre leurs distances par rapport à la maladie.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • June Larkin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Flicker
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruth Koleszar-Green
    • 1
    • 3
  • Susan Mintz
    • 1
    • 4
  • Michelle Dagnino
    • 1
    • 5
  • Claudia Mitchell
    • 6
  1. 1.The Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) Project, Undergraduate Coordinator Women and Gender Studies, Women and Gender Studies Institute, New CollegeUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Environmental StudiesYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Social WorkRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Urban StudiesUniversity of TorontoCanada
  5. 5.Osgoode Law SchoolYork UniversityCanada
  6. 6.The Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention (GAAP) Project, Faculty of EducationMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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