Women ask for better protection
Whangarei women are adding their voices to a campaign to make protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections more accessible.
Female condoms available, accessible and affordable for all is the aim of the international Paper Dolls campaign.
In Whangarei dozens of women attended a workshop run by YWCA Aotearoa and Positive Women, plus signed personal messages on paper dolls in a unique petition for female condoms.
Female condoms are the only woman-initiated prevention method that provides protection against both unwanted pregnancy and STIs, including HIV and AIDS.
Their design has a number of advantages over male condoms yet globally less than 1 percent of all condoms distributed are female condoms.
The Universal Access to Female Condoms is leading the campaign to raise awareness to decision-makers about the need to have female condoms more accessible.
YWCA Aotearoa spokeswoman Sarah Davies says in New Zealand it is important for people to have options over their type of protection.
But in countries with HIV and AIDS epidemics, there are women dying because they don't have access to female condoms, Ms Davies says.
Positive Women, a support network for women and families living with HIV, and Family Planning are the only organisations in New Zealand which distribute female condoms.
Positive Women spokeswoman Jane Bruning says the female condoms mean women can take control.
But at $2 each the female condoms are more expensive than male condoms and it would be good to have a government subsidy or availability by prescription, she says.
New Zealanders tend to think HIV is a gay man's disease or something confined to Africa but since 1985 there have been 3470 Kiwis diagnosed as HIV positive, including 500 women and 500 heterosexual men, she says.
The signed paper dolls will be used in New Zealand to raise awareness before being sent to the Universal Access to Female Condoms in the Netherlands.