Have we forgotten to talk about the most intimate part of our health during the pandemic?

December 1, 20214 Minutes

Sydney: 1 December 2021: On World AIDS Day, one Australian condom company is asking us to consider how pandemics and […]

Sydney: 1 December 2021: 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.

Since the start of COVID-19 Australia’s health resources have been diverted to contain and respond to the pandemic, and our health systems have been overwhelmed. Healthcare providers report widespread barriers for clients trying to access sexual and reproductive health services due to the disruption caused by COVID-19.

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, 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, socially responsible condom company 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 COVID19 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” said David Wommelsdorff, CEO of HERO.

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. This means being honest with ourselves about existing inequalities in our system. 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.

World AIDS Day is a timely reminder of other significant health challenges and the complexities facing our communities, alongside the multifaceted COVID pandemic crisis. Having partnered to address health crises, HERO are 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.” added David

HERO develops partnerships to combat HIV in Australia and globally, in line with the UNAIDS goal of Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Hero has donated over 2.2million condoms to the people of Botswana, a country with the second highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. In Australia, HERO has donated over 125,000 condoms, with ~25,000 of these donations in the last 12 months.

Their focus is not only to provide condoms to clinics where people seek free sexual health support, but also to formulate partnerships with organisations who are providing education and support to remote diverse Australian communities.