On World AIDS Day, one Australian condom company is asking us to consider how pandemics and health crises – from Covid-19 to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – have shaped Australian society today, and how we can take action to address health inequality and social stigma.
Socially responsible condom company Hero, says World AIDS Day is a timely reminder of other significant health challenges and the complexities facing our communities, alongside the multifaceted Covid pandemic crisis.
Since the start of Covid-19, Australia’s health resources have been diverted to contain and respond to the pandemic, and the health systems have been overwhelmed. Hero says that healthcare providers report widespread barriers for clients trying to access sexual and reproductive health services due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.
It adds that unavoidable restrictions on movement have drastically impacted people’s likeliness to access essential health services, and the fallout is still coming to light. While there has been ample discussion of the mental health impacts of the pandemic, Hero says we are yet to have a national discourse around sexual health in the current context.
Over 23,000 Australians live with HIV and about 16% of Australians report having a sexually transmitted infection in their lifetime. To address this, Hero are turbocharging condom donations in Australia, through partnerships with leading frontline service providers like Marie Stopes Australia and 1800 My Options. By providing free condoms to communities and organisations in need, Hero aims to decrease health inequality.
“We know that during health crises like the Covid-19 pandemic, the social, health and economic fallout leads to strain across the entire health sector, and this can particularly impact the contested field of sexual and reproductive health rights” says Hero’s CEO, David Wommelsdorff.
As we recover from the pandemic, the accessibility of sexual and reproductive health services and contraceptive products will be critical to mitigating the fallout of the pandemic on the most intimate parts of peoples’ lives.
By creating a stigma free conversation about STIs, contraception and sex positivity, Hero hopes to unlock a unique opportunity for addressing health inequality, and responding to the different barriers and forms of discrimination people experience when they interact with the health system.
Hero is pushing for a Covid response which prioritises empowering local, context appropriate health programs, whether for contraceptive or pandemic solutions.
“At the core of our program lies the understanding that by partnering to support locally led, context appropriate solutions and organisations, we can address the health inequality that persists even in Australia today,” says Mr Wommelsdorff.