Circle of Life HIV/AIDS Prevention Intervention for American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

In this article, the authors present the case of two curricula developed specifically for AI/AN youth: “Circle of Life: HIV/AIDS Curriculum for K-6” and “Circle of Life: HIV/AIDS and STD Prevention Curriculum for Middle School.” They outline the challenges and successes of development, implementation, and dissemination of these AI/AN youth-focused interventions. This history, coupled with strategic partnerships and escalating HIV prevention need in AI/AN communities, has propelled the two Circle of Life (COL) curricula forward, positioning them as meaningful and appropriate options for youth sexual risk prevention.

Unifying these two COL curricula is the medicine wheel. The Plains Indian medicine wheel is a powerful symbol of holistic philosophies and a teaching tool used in many AI/AN communities. In designing the curricula the medicine wheel was adopted and adapted as the foundation for developing content to engage AI/AN youth specifically. Also, drawing from earlier research demonstrating the importance of experiential learning in HIV prevention, the curricula was infused with various skills-building games, activities, and stories to promote avoidance of risky behaviors. Both curricula were designed as targeted health curricula; however, consistent with AI/AN philosophies, they also encompass far more than sexual risk prevention. Instead, they also promote the development of overall physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness of students, consistent with the teachings of the medicine wheel and other similar AI cultural symbols.

Population of focus: American Indian and Alaska Native youth

Link to resource:

Organization: Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado School of Public Health

Date: 2012