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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sexual behaviour and barriers to STI testing among youth in Northeastern BC Goldenberg, Shira


Introduction: Oil/gas communities across Northeastern British Columbia are experiencing rapid in-migration of young, primarily male workers in response to an economic ‘boom’ in the oil/gas sectors. Accompanying the ‘boom’ has been a rise in rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people, with Chlamydia rates among youth in the Northeast exceeding the provincial average by 22%. Previous research indicates that socio-cultural and structural determinants of youth sexual behaviour and access to STI testing are important for understanding youth sexual health disparities – and represent key targets for STI prevention efforts. No other research has explored STIs in this rapidly developing, under-resourced context. Therefore, objectives of this thesis were to: (1) Examine how socio-cultural and structural features related to the oil/gas ‘boom’ affect the sexual behaviour of young people in Fort St. John (FSJ), BC; (2) Gather the perspectives of youth and their service providers on the socio-cultural and structural barriers to STI testing in FSJ; (3) Develop recommendations to improve the accessibility of STI testing. Results: Participants identified 4 main ways in which the socio-cultural and structural conditions created by the ‘boom’ affect sexual behaviours, fuelling the spread of STIs in FSJ: mobility of oil/gas workers; binge partying; high levels of disposable income; and gendered power dynamics. As well, 5 key barriers to STI testing among youth were identified: limited opportunities for access; geographic inaccessibility; local social norms; limited information; and negative interactions with providers. Discussion: These data indicate that the conditions fostered by the ‘boom’ in FSJ exacerbate sexual health inequalities among young people. They can be more widely contextualized as an example of the unintended – but not unexpected – health and social implications of a resource-extraction ‘boom’, illustrating the fallacy of ‘development’ as representing uniformly positive ‘progress’. Recommended actions include STI prevention and testing service delivery models that incorporate a locally tailored public awareness campaign, outreach to oil/gas workers, condom distribution, expanded clinic hours and drop-in appointments, specialized training for health care providers, and intersectoral partnerships between public health, non-profit organizations, and industry. An ongoing knowledge translation internship has been undertaken to implement some of these recommendations.

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