Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face many health challenges. In terms of sexual and reproductive health, these communities experience higher incidence of sexually transmitted infections than non- Indigenous Australians. In 2009, chlamydia was recorded at rates that were three times higher and gonorrhoea at rates that were 26 times higher than non- Indigenous populations1.
Geographical isolation and limited education and access to health information and services contribute to the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health. Within Indigenous communities sex can also be a taboo subject, and talking about sexual and reproductive health is often not encouraged.
Marie Stopes’ Indigenous Health Program, SNAKE Condoms, aims to address these health gaps and taboos. SNAKE is Australia’s only socially marketed condom designed for Aboriginal youth, by Aboriginal youth. Launched in 2004, SNAKE has grown from a Victorian state-based pilot to a nationally distributed condom available in every state and territory in Australia.
Serving the Underserved
RemoteSixty-eight per cent of Indigenous people live in regional or remote areas of Australia making access to healthcare services limited2. In cooperation with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), we have been able to distribute SNAKE to many remote and very remote communities across Australia.
PoorAlmost half of Indigenous 18−24 year olds living in remote areas are not working or studying – this is double the rate of non-Indigenous people of the same age2. SNAKE is donated or sold at a small cost to ACCHOs and other community organisations. These agencies then distribute them free of charge within their communities. This approach ensures that expense is not a barrier to safer sex for Aboriginal young people.
YoungNearly 60 per cent of Indigenous Australians are under 25 years old3. With sex a taboo subject, young Indigenous people often miss out on crucial sex education. With the input of young Indigenous Australians, SNAKE was specifically designed to appeal to Aboriginal youth. While the packaging reflects the identity of this young audience, the tongue-in-cheek advertising goes a long way towards reducing the taboo around sex among this population.
Looking Forward the Program Aims to:
1. Bloodborne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Surveillance and Evaluation Report 2010. National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2010.