The NAPWHA National Network of Woman Living with HIV (Femfatales) is a policy and advisory network to the Board. As a national woman’s network in Australia we identified five key areas of work to focus on. The area of sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing incorporating the female condom FC2 has been a main focus for several years and culminated in the current FC2 postcard campaign entitled “Give your vagina a choice”.
This work became a priority after speaking at an earlier UNIFEM — now UN young women’s — conference in Sydney. It was concerning to discover the limited awareness and information across the audience of the female condom, specifically FC2 considering female condoms have been widely used for protection against unintended pregnancy, STIs and HIV outside Australia for many years. “Attempts have been made to promote the latest, improved version of the female condom – FC2 – in Australia, with limited success” according to Positive Life SA health promotion officer Suzi Quixley.
As a national woman’s network we listened and decided to take action. We utilised our logo name “Femfatales” and created purple or red T-shirts with the slogan “Give your vagina a choice”. The network was unanimous in our decision to name the vaginas as we were tired of being an invisible minority where in Australia 80% of the HIV-positive population is MSM and the voices of women who live with HIV are often surrounded in silence, secrecy or shame.
Next we ran another small but successful campaign with joint funding from NAPWHA and Glyde which enabled us to distribute 1,000 FC2 on World AIDS Day 2011 in conjunction with a network media release to highlight the issues around availability, affordability and accessibility across Australia of the female condom.
The next opportunity came with the holding of the first Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference late in 2012. In partnership with two mainstream women’s health associations we submitted a poster “Barriers to a barrier method: the female condom and sexual and reproductive health and rights in Australia” promoting the FC2 and recommending that the Australian government and state and territory governments incorporate the female condom into their sexual and reproductive health strategies.
This request for affirmative action was further demonstrated in the design and production of 5,000 postcards. Using a discreet graphic, the tagline “Give your vagina a choice” and a list of clear facts, a request was made to the federal minister for health to support all woman in their sexual and reproductive health choices by making the FC2 more affordable and available.
Please join us in widely distributing the postcards from now until the International AIDS Conference happening in Melbourne in July 2014. Throughout AIDS 2014 there will be the opportunity from within the women’s networking zone (WNZ) for anyone to fill in a postcard, drop it into the post box and show your practical support towards this quest of equity for women around their sexual and reproductive health choices.