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National fono for Pacific “third sex” communities

National fono for Pacific “third sex” communities

A national fono of Pasifika people who identify as being of the “third sex” is aimed at raising awareness, building support and addressing health issues, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says.

The “Third Sex” is a term sometimes used among Pasifika people to describe those who do not identify or live according to their birth gender.

To be held from October 21 to 23, the fono (hui/meeting) is focusing specifically on Pasifika people whose birth gender was male but who identify as Fa’afafine (Samoan), Fakaleiti (Tongan), Mahu Wahine (Hawaiian), Mahu Vahine (Tahitian), Whakawahine (Maori) and Akava’ine (Cook Island). The conference has been timed to immediately precede the Pan Pacific Regional HIV/AIDS Conference in Auckland from 25 to 28 October.

“HIV/AIDS statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand and other Pacific nations show that the transmission of HIV is increasing among Pacific peoples,” says NZAF Tumuwhakahaere – National Manager Health Promotion Te Herekiekie Herewini. “Fa’afafine, fakaleiti, akava’ine, mahu wahine, mahu vahine and whakawahine communities are at high risk of contracting HIV, yet there is little official support to cater to their unique needs.”

Invitations to attend the fono have gone to “third sex” leaders from around the Pacific as well as throughout New Zealand.

The fono will have as its themes: Celebration of the traditions of “third sex” cultures. To provide a safe environment to discuss issues of importance re health and well-being. To understand “third sex” perspectives about HIV/AIDS and provide an update about HIV/AIDS in the Pacific. To promote a safe sex culture within these communities. To gather a fa’afafine/fakaleiti/mahu wahine/mahu vahine/whakawahine/akava’ine “voice” for presentation at the Pan Pacific HIV/AIDS conference.

“In spite of the suppression of non-heterosexual identities that followed western colonisation of the Pacific, the ‘third sex’ have continued to be a visible part of Pacific cultures,” Te Herekiekie Herewini says. “This fono is a unique opportunity to bring these voices together to learn from one another, celebrate our identities and cultures and contribute to the global battle against HIV and AIDS.”

ENDS

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