"When you follow your heart, you provide that path for others": Indigenous Models of Youth Leadership in HIV Prevention

Keywords: Indigenous, HIV, youth, leadership, community-based participatory research, digital storytelling, Canada


Cultivating and supporting Indigenous peer youth leaders should be an important part of Canada’s response to HIV. This paper examines how a group of Indigenous youth leaders took up the notion of leadership in the context of HIV prevention. Taking Action II was a community-based participatory action research project. Eighteen Indigenous youth leaders from across Canada were invited to share narratives about their passion for HIV prevention through digital storytelling. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants after they developed their digital stories, and then again several months later. A thematic analysis of the interviews was conducted to identify major themes. Youth identified qualities of an Indigenous youth leader as being confident, trustworthy, willing to listen, humble, patient, dedicated, resilient, and healthy. A number of key examples and challenges of youth leadership were also discussed. In contrast to individualized mainstream ideals, Indigenous youth in our study viewed leadership as deeply connected to relationships with family, community, history, legacies, and communal health.


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