Aim To describe the prevalence and trends of sexual health behaviours for Māori youth in New Zealand.
Method The Youth 2000 survey series are anonymous, representative, cross-sectional, self-administered surveys undertaken in 2001, 2007 and 2012 with over 27,000 New Zealand secondary school students aged 12–18 years.
Results Data from the surveys highlight that in 2012, 36% of Māori had ever had sex. This was significantly lower than in previous waves of the survey (47.6% in 2001, 55.8% in 2007). Similarly those who report being currently sexually active has declined over time (33.5% in 2001, 41.8% in 2007 and 26.5% in 2012). Despite the trends to fewer Māori youth engaging in sexual behaviour in secondary school, the use of contraception (51.3% in 2001, 52.2% in 2007 and 48.4% in 2012) and condoms (46.4% in 2001, 36.1% in 2007 and 43.8% in 2012) has not improved. Compared to New Zealand European (NZE) students, Māori are significantly more likely to be sexually active (OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.24, 1.83) and less likely to use contraception (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.38, 0.66). There was no difference in condom use between Māori and NZE. Māori also reported that they were less able to access primary care (GP) they required in the previous 12 months (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.72, 0.99).
Conclusion Māori youth in New Zealand are delaying sexual activity, but those who are sexually active are particularly vulnerable to STIs. Specific strategies are required that improve access to appropriate contraception and condom use for Māori.