Background Surveillance data indicate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are more likely than their non-Indigenous counterparts to experience sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and teenage pregnancy. Despite increasing emphasis on the need for strengths-based approaches to Aboriginal sexual health, limited published data document how young Aboriginal people reduce sexual health risks encountered in their everyday lives.
In-depth interviews with 35 young Aboriginal women and men aged 16-21 years in two remote Australian settings were conducted; inductive thematic analysis examining sexual health risk reduction practices was also conducted.
Participants reported individual and collective STI and pregnancy risk reduction strategies. Individual practices included accessing and carrying condoms; having a regular casual sexual partner; being in a long-term trusting relationship; using long-acting reversible contraception; having fewer sexual partners; abstaining from sex; accessing STI testing. More collective strategies included: refusing sex without a condom; accompanied health clinic visits with a trusted individual; encouraging friends to use condoms and go for STI testing; providing friends with condoms.
Findings broaden understanding of young Aboriginal people's sexual health risk reduction strategies in remote Aboriginal communities. Findings signal the need for multisectoral STI prevention and sexual health programs driven by young people's existing harm minimisation strategies and cultural models of collective support. Specific strategies to enhance young people's sexual health include: peer condom distribution; accompanied health service visits; peer-led health promotion; continued community-based condom distribution; enhanced access to a fuller range of available contraception in primary care settings; engaging health service-experienced young people as 'youth health workers'.