GIPPSLAND Women’s Health (GWH) has moved to ensure that women’s sexual and reproductive health is not neglected during the coronavirus pandemic.
The service has published a factsheet amid concerns about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), increasing rates of unplanned pregnancy and reproductive coercion during the state of emergency.
Gippsland Women’s Health acting chief executive Melanie Brown said reproductive health services were essential services and needed to be maintained during the pandemic to ensure that women’s reproductive rights were protected.
Access to condoms in Gippsland has been reduced with some condom vending machines that are in public toilets now locked and some places where people could get free condoms closed. Condoms are still available at supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, online and at some health and community organisations.
For anyone who has sex without a condom and is worried that they may have an STI, they can get tested at their doctor or use TESTme (www.testme.org.au). This service is free for rural Victorians younger than 25 years old, rural Victorian men who have sex with men, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
GWH advised it was important for women taking the contraceptive pill to continue doing so. GP clinics are offering telehealth or telephone consultations and can send a prescription to the woman’s local pharmacy or directly to their home.
Face-to-face consultations are also available where clinically appropriate. There are also online options such as Kin (kinfertility.com.au) which delivers a woman’s pill to her door after an online review by a doctor.
Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives such as Implanon and IUDs can still be inserted during the pandemic. Family Planning Victoria said there was advice that it is safe to leave these in for longer and the woman should discuss this with their doctor.
The Emergency Contraceptive Pill is still available to women over the counter at pharmacies to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex.
Women can still access abortion services although their ability to afford these services may be reduced because of job losses due to the pandemic.
Marie Stopes Australia has indicated that there have been national abortion access issues which have been increasing every day since the pandemic announcement on March 11, 2020.
GWH said this was concerning as access to abortions is time critical and later gestation presentations reduce women’s options.
Women can speak to someone about their contraception, pregnancy or sexual health needs by contacting 1800 My Options (1800 555 660) or visit www.1800myoptions.org.au. This is a free, confidential sexual and reproductive health information helpline for Victorian women.