An exploratory study to inform the design of contemporary health education for minimising risk of sexually transmitted infections among 16-19 year olds in Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Sonja Judith Ellis

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    The prevention of sexually transmitted, or sexually transmissible, infections (STIs) is an important public health measure for maintaining sexual health at a population level. In Aotearoa New Zealand STIs are a significant public health issue and contribute to the burden of disease; particularly among young people. Sexual health surveillance data indicates that in Aotearoa New Zealand between 2011 and 2015 there has been a substantial decrease of more than 50% in genital warts (HPV) among young people aged 15-19 (Institute of Environmental Science and Research, 2018; Oliphant et al., 2017). However, despite this success story, both men and women in this age group are still at considerable risk of contracting the most common STIs: chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Health education is an important public health risk reduction strategy for this age group. Therefore, improving the impact of health education is a key initiative for reducing the burden of disease in the 16-19 year old population.

    In order for such education programs to be effective, they need to reflect a sound knowledge of the contemporary behaviour of New Zealand youth, and the understanding that youth currently have about risk factors for STIs. While there is a well-established research literature on young people’s sexual health, these typically focus on sexual intercourse and are underpinned by traditional binaries of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Consequently, they ignore a whole range of behaviours that potentially make up the sexual repertoires of young people; and the fluidity of sexual identities among young people today. Few studies have been undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand and consequently little is known about the sexual behaviours, sexual health practices, and levels of knowledge about STIs and/or HIV/AIDS among young New Zealanders. This purpose of the present study was to gain a more nuanced understanding of the sexual practices, sexual health behaviours, and knowledge of STIs of 16-19 year olds in Aotearoa New Zealand with a view to better understanding their risks for sexually transmitted infections to inform the development of health education programs that target minimising these risks.

    The present study employed a cross-sectional, quantitative design. A diverse, self-selected, sample of 52 young people aged 16-19 and based in Aotearoa New Zealand completed an electronic survey asking a comprehensive range of questions about sexual behaviours, sexual health practices, and knowledge of STIs and HIV/AIDS. Participants reported a range of sexual activities, but generally as either a heterosexual or same-sex activity rather than activities being more fluidly practised. In terms of health promoting/disease preventing practices, for a range of reasons there was considerable variation in the extent to which respondents talked with sexual partners about preventing STIs and/or HIV. Equally, respondents reported inconsistent use of protection (condoms; dental dams) during sexual activity; with use during oral sex being particularly infrequent. Knowledge of STIs and HIV/AIDs was generally good with the exception of risk associated with penetrative anal sex. The implications of these findings for sexual health education and promotion are also discussed.
    Date of AwardNov 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRobyn Aitken (Supervisor)

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