Durham Region healthy sex youthality project: youth's perspectives of sexual health needs in Durham Region
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According to Durham Region Public Health Department, 40% of youth, aged 15-19 years, living in Durham Region said that they had engaged in sexual intercourse in the last year, with 570 youth becoming pregnant. In Durham Region 2.3/100,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years are infected with HIV/AIDS annually. Chlamydia rates have also been steadily increasing with 1,250 cases reported in 2009 in Durham Region, with the rates of STIs in Canada being the highest in youth ages 15 to 24 years. This study was undertaken as a capacity building venture to engage youth in Durham Region and allow them to identify their sexual needs and priorities for HIV prevention and healthy sexual development. The study also had four objectives: (1) To assess whether youth know about the sexual health services that are available to them; (2) To discover how youth perceive the sexual health services they are aware of; (3) To identify where youth currently receive sexual health resources; and (4) To understand where, how and from whom youth would like to receive sexual health resources. The Durham Region Healthy SexYouthality Project was a community-based research study conducted by the Durham Region Healthy SexYouthality Coalition. The Project was a qualitative research study that employed focus group sessions to engage youth in discussions pertaining to their sexual health. The study sample included 32 participants ranging from 15 to 24 years of age, with the mean age of 18.96 years. Of the 32 participants, 19 were female, 12 were male and 1 identified as transgender. The coalition identified four populations within Durham Region; urban, rural, semi-rural and LGBTQ youth, which resulted in 10 focus groups. The size of each meeting ranged from four to nine participants and each was audiotaped. The data was transcribed and then analyzed using open coding with the NVivo 9 software. Several themes about sexual health services emerged from the study. They include: lack of knowledge of services, the need for increased awareness; the perceptions youth have about health services including that they are inaccessible, not anonymous, not confidential, not knowledgeable, are judgemental but are youth-friendly; where youth currently receive information including the internet, media, friends/peers, school, parents and health professionals; and how youth would prefer to receive sexual health education such as through trustworthy internet sources, improved sexual education in schools and new community programs. In conclusion, youth in Durham Region need more information about the sexual health services that are available to them and changes need to be made to make them more accessible, anonymous and confidential. Youth also prefer to access information about sexual health through convenient and reliable sources and it is up to organizations working with youth to ensure that these needs are best being met.