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About the YSMENA Study


The Youth Sexual Health and HIV/STI Prevention in Middle Eastern and North African Communities (YSMENA) is the first community-based research program in Canada to center the voices of diaspora MENA youth. YSMENA is aimed at determining HIV risk context and sexual health needs of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) diaspora youth living in Canada. 

The YSMENA program is an innovative, strength-focused, resilience-based, and youth-driven study aimed at reducing HIV vulnerabilities and sexual health disparities among MENA youth, including youth with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. The YSMENA study was funded by two (2) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants.

The central objectives of the study are:

  1. To understand how the social environments and relationships of MENA youth in the contexts of their homes, schools, and communities, shape their identities and influence their sexual health.

  2. To engage in developmental research that builds community and youth capacity in knowledge generation and sexual health

  3. To bridge existing gaps in the literature that apply to the MENA community and amass evidence to inform future health programming and policy

  4. To engage youth participants in designing sexual health interventions that can inform relevant programming and planning


Phase 01

Identify Gaps in the Literature and Services: Scoping Review

Phase 02

Engage a Multi-Disciplinary Team:

i. Research Summit

ii. Community Advisory Group (CAG)

iii. MENA Sexual Health Research Network - at the Summit

Phase 03

Developmental Research:

i. Leadership Model (Train 6 MENA Youth Peer Leaders)

ii. Recruitment (55 MENA Youth, 16-29 yrs)

iii. Data Collection:

-Socio demographic Survey

-Sequential Dialogical 14

-Focus Group Discussions

iv. Data Analysis

Phase 04

iKT & Engagement:

i. Social Media

ii. Website

iii. MENA Sexual Health Network

iv. Papers

v. Conferences

vi. Reporting

CAG formed 2019

MENA Youth PRAs Recruited & Trained Dec 2020 - Present

Data Analysis May - July 2021

MENA Youth Sexual Health Network Initiated, 2021


Scoping Review 2019-2020

Data Collection Jan - April 2021

Research Summit Oct 2021

Publications & Conference Presentations Ongoing

Study Design

Recruit and Train 6 MENA Peer Leaders as Peer Research Associates (PRAs)

Informed Consent

Pre-Focus Group Socio Demographic Survey

Pre-Focus Group Journal

Focus Group Discussion Guide (3 PRAs/focus group)

Two Sequential Critical Dialogical Focus Group Sessions (14), 6-10/group. Total participants: 56

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified gay/Bi/men who have sex with men (MSM)

Self-identified heterosexual men

Self-identified heterosexual men

Self-identified heterosexual women

Self-identified Bi/Lesbian/Queer women

Self-identified heterosexual women

Self-identified Bi/Lesbian/Queer women

Self-identified transgender women

Self-identified transgender women

One (1) focus group with representation from previous groups

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Using a mix-methods design, data were collected using a quantitative socio-demographic survey and qualitative focus groups with 56 MENA youth, ages 16-29 years in Ontario. Youth of diverse sexual and gender identities were recruited to ensure the data was meaningfully representative of different lived realities. Fourteen (14) sequential critical dialogical focus groups were held with youth sub-groups including, gay and bisexual cis men, heterosexual cis men, heterosexual cis women, lesbian and queer cis women, and trans women.

Each group participated in two focus group sessions to understand: 1) youth sexual health behaviours and cultural identity; and 2) participant recommendations for interventions. An additional focus group, focused solely on interventions was conducted, with representation from all sub-groups. Sessions were transcribed and coded using NVIVO for thematic analysis. Participants were recruited through study flyers shared by word of mouth and by partner organizations via email or social media.

Recruitment Flyer

Click on the document to the left to download the YSMENA Study Recruitment Flyer for Research Participants

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