International journal for equity in health 2017 07 2116(1) 132 doi 10.1186/s12939-017-0625-8
Indigenous young people are currently highly overrepresented in the HIV epidemic in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, such as Manitoba. Understanding HIV-vulnerability in Indigenous peoples must begin with understanding that social determinants are intersectional and linked to the historical legacy of European colonization. In this paper findings that detail the influence of the intersectional social determinants on Indigenous people who become infected with HIV in their youth are presented.
The qualitative research design of phenomenology was used as it afforded the opportunity to understand Indigenous young people from their frames of reference and experiences of reality, resulting in a phenomenological understanding of their perspectives and experiences of the early years of living with HIV. A total of 21 Indigenous young people took part open-ended interviews.
The stories that the Indigenous young people shared revealed their deeply interconnected social worlds, and how social determinants including abuse, trauma, being part of the child welfare system, and housing and food security were connected throughout various stages of their lives. Such stages included childhood, adolescence and young adulthood (the time of HIV infection), and later adulthood for older participants with the social determinants having multiple influences on their health trajectories.
The findings highlight the need for policies and programs that are broadly focused, addressing multiple social determinants together. Overall, there needs to be more emphasis on the multiple social determinants in the life situations of all Indigenous youth. Reducing the health and social disparities in Indigenous youth is key to reducing the number of young Indigenous people diagnosed with HIV. The findings also shed light on the importance of listening to young Indigenous people who have experienced HIV diagnosis and life following diagnosis.