Sexual Health Education - Respecting the Circle of Life

Theme(s):
Adolescent Health, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention, Infectious Disease Prevention, Sexual & Reproductive Health

On some tribal reservations, sexual health education is not part of standardized school curriculum. Adolescents in these communities suffer high rates of sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy. Focus groups completed with White Mountain Apache adolescents indicated sexual health knowledge including HIV/AIDs prevention and transmission knowledge is low, peers readily influence youth’s decision to engage in sexual risk behaviors and skills necessary to reduce risk behaviors including communication skills and proper condom use are lacking.  Innovative programs that fill this educational gap and are easily transportable are essential.

About Respecting the Circle of Life

Respecting the Circle of Life is a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health program culturally adapted for American Indian communities. It provides teens with comprehensive knowledge and teaches skills to help them make healthy choices regarding sex and communication with their partners. Respecting the Circle of Life:

  • Consists of 8 sessions each lasting 90 minutes
  • Is taught to small same-sex groups of friends by 2 adult facilitators
  • Teaches reproduction, anatomy, prevention and transmission of sexually transmitted infections
  • Promotes problem-solving strategies and healthy communication
  • Enables youth to practice condom use skills
  • Prevents alcohol and drug use, especially before sex

The Respecting the Circle of Life program is embedded in a two-week summer basketball camp. Educational sessions blend with basketballs skills training and competitive play, and provide youth with a recreational outlet that enhances overall program participation. 

Results 

Respecting the Circle of Life was evaluated with 267 White Mountain Apache adolescents aged 13-19. One year after receiving the program, teens had:

  1. Improved prevention and transmission knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS
  2. Increased confidence in their ability to use condoms correctly and consistently
  3. More conversations about sexual and reproductive health with their parents and other trusted adults

Funders and replication partners

This project has been supported by the Native American Research Center for Health of the National Institutes of Health.