New safe sex packs empower fa’afafine to take control of their health

UNDP_WS_3in1_Packs_SF2018PageantNew safe sex packs empower fa’afafine to take control of their health. Photo credit: UNDP/T.Luscia/2018.

Apia, Samoa – Newly developed safe sex packs tailored specifically for the needs of the fa’afafine (transwomen) community, containing condoms, lubricants and an informative pamphlet, were distributed for the first time this week at the Samoa Fa’afafine 2018 Pageant in Apia. The ‘3-in-1’ safe sex packs are an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Samoa Fa'afafine Association (SFA).  The IEC materials tailored for Faafafines is SFA initiative and designed, and these imagery photos are printed on the cover of these packages. 

Samoa, as with other Pacific island countries, is continuing to see high rates of STIs in the population. Recent surveillance data by the Samoa Ministry of Health shows that the numbers of cases of HIV and STIs are increasing, particularly Chlamydia. Between mid-2017 and mid-2018 the percent of people testing positive jumped from 20.7 percent to 24.22 percent. However, numbers of people voluntarily being tested is on the rise, and higher numbers of cases detected means more people are being linked to treatment and care.

The data aligns with a 2016 behavioural study by UNDP which found low levels of condom use and other risky behaviour to be common among key populations, including fa’afafines, in Samoa. 

The ‘Play Safe’ packs aim to boost prevention efforts for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among fa’afafines. The initiative was developed in close cooperation with the SFA to ensure that the content and packaging will be well received by their target audience. 

"The safe sex packs were designed by SFA and have very Samoan fa'afafine friendly packaging. The imagery featured in them also has a very sweet sense of fa'afafine humour,” said Alex Su'a, SFA President. “The fact, that the main characters are well known members of our Association speaks a lot about the work of our fa'afafine and fa'atama community with HIV/AIDS and STI testing. I’m proud to say that these packs are a pure indication of the priority of our Association – that is to prioritize our own national advocacy within our own fa'afafine and fa'atama community. This is fa'afafabulously kaisi!"

The innovative product contains detailed information in Samoan language about the symptoms of HIV and STIs, how to prevent transmission, and where to go to seek fa’afafine-friendly sexual health services. 

“We too often assume that people out there have detailed knowledge about how to protect themselves and their partners, without realizing that there are still people who think that using a condom is only to avoid getting pregnant,” said Sara Faletoese, Programme Analyst at UNDP Samoa. “From the available data and our own surveys, we have come to find out that condom utilization is very low in Samoa and I’m sure it’s the same case across the Pacific. Fa’afafine are a vulnerable group – through this initiative, we’re aiming to empower them to take control of their health and well-being.”  

The goal of the initiative is to reduce risky behaviour among the fa’afafine community and to promote regular testing at government and community-run health centres. The safe sex packs will be distributed by SFA to a range of sites, including at the SFA Office and drop-in centres, at National Health Service HIV/STI clincis, community health centres, hotels and resorts, and entertainment venues across the country.  

The safe sex packs are supported through the Multi-Country Western Pacific Integrated HIV/tuberculosis (TB) Programme, a regional grant supported by UNDP and the Global Fund to strengthen control of HIV and TB in 11 Pacific island countries. The packs were distributed at the Samoa Fa’afafine 2018 Pageant as well as the Fa’afafine My Girls Club workshop on 3-7 September, a training on transgender rights organized by the Asia Pacific Transgender Network in Apia.

For more information on the Multi-Country Western Pacific Integrated HIV/TB Programme, see:

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