Sexual Health and Healthy Living
Just like good mental, spiritual and physical health, sexual health is an important aspect of healthy living. Results of the First Nations and Regional Longitudinal Health Survey indicate that nearly three quarters (73.7%) of adults aged 18 and over are sexually active, as defined by respondents reporting sexual activity in the 12 months preceding the survey. Additionally, more First Nations males (80.3%) than females (66.8%) reported being sexually active.
As much as avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy is an important part of sexual health, the key is healthy relationships. There are many types of relationships: between ourselves, friends, families, a partner, our community, and Mother Earth. All relationships take work and require effort to keep the relationship healthy and strong. Relationships require respect both for yourself and for the other person, the community, or Mother Earth. In a healthy relationship all people have equal power and control, and are involved in decision-making.
Improving sexual health in First Nation communities and addressing sexually transmitted infections, complications in pregnancy and delivery, teenage pregnancies and sexual violence requires reducing inequities in the availability and accessibility of sexual and reproductive services. Providing culturally safe care in this context involves adapting practices and programs to suit the particular needs of First Nation women, including respect for their unique needs, interests, health beliefs and behaviours.
The First Nations Centre of NAHO recently completed a toolkit on sexual health (two parts). Part 1 has information on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It also has information on getting tested. Part 2 has information on sexuality and relationships. The purpose of the toolkit is to provide basic information needed to keep sexually healthy. It also provides links to other useful web sites. This toolkit has been created in collaboration with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN). NYSHN is a North- America wide organization working on issues of healthy sexuality, cultural competency, youth empowerment, reproductive justice, and sex positivity by and for Native youth. NAHO has also undertaken initiatives to help prevent the spread of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in Aboriginal communities. Health care providers and Inuit communities have made sexual health a priority. A list of resources on sexual health developed by the Inuit Tuttarvingat can be found here.
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