Understanding the influence of early childhood sexual trauma and resiliency on health outcomes among young Aboriginal people who use drugs in British Columbia

Recent research has determined that young Aboriginal people who have been sexually abused and who use drugs are at greater risk of several negative health outcomes including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), infection. It is now well recognized that building resiliency is fundamental to the success of traditional Aboriginal health care practices and that cultural buffers may moderate vulnerability. There are a number of aspects to building resilience including attending to the mind, the body, the emotions and the spirit and, notably, there may be gender and age-related differences in resilience dynamics. Consequently, focused research is required to develop practical theories of resiliency and targeted interventions that will address trauma and facilitate stress coping among Aboriginal young people. To that end, Margo Pearce is investigating specific questions about the role that historical trauma and protective factors have with respect to vulnerability to HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) among young Aboriginal people in BC. She is utilizing existing data from the Cedar Project, an ongoing initiative funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that monitors HIV and HCV risk among 600-1000 young indigenous people aged 14-30 who use injection and non-injection drugs. She is analyzing gender differences in health outcomes over time related to early childhood trauma amongst the Project participants. Ms. Pearce’s work will provide a better understanding of the protective factors that prevent specific adverse health outcomes among young Aboriginal men and women. Furthermore, it will address trauma and protective factors from a global public health policy perspective.