Nova Scotia

Halifax street youth asked about sex health

Public health officials in Halifax hope a national survey on the sexual health of street youth sheds some light on the situation here.

Public health officials in Halifax hope a national survey on the sexual health of street youth sheds some light on the situation here.

The survey is being conducted in cities across Canada. In Halifax, the goal is to interview 180 young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

The point of the survey is to ultimately help street youth, who have higher rates of sexual infections than others their age.

Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, medical officer of health for Capital Health, said sex is often a transaction for them.

"They're often having sex for food or for shelter or for clothing — for basic necessities of life," she said.

This isn't the first nationwide survey on the topic. But this will be the first time that Capital Health will have its own epidemiologist analyze the data to learn details about the situation in Halifax.

"That will start to get at some of the questions we have about the street youth in Halifax. So it's very exciting," said Watson-Creed.

For example, public health officials in the city expect to learn more about where street youth come from and what types of diseases they have. That kind of information will help when tailoring local programs.

The Phoenix centre for youth offers medical help to young people who are homeless, couch surfing or having a difficult time at home. A bowl of condoms sits beside a bowl of candy in the nurse's station.

The centre sees about 1,000 youth a year. At any given point in the week it serves about 40 young people in various ways.

Still, Miia Suokonautio, the centre's director of programming, admits it's a difficult group to reach.

"I think we're realistic that there are always youth who don't necessarily feel that they need the help, or aren't in a place where they can seek it," she said.

Capital Health is offering survey participants a $15 gift card for groceries as an incentive.

The survey wraps up this week. The data will be analyzed this fall.

now