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A health promotion first for Aotearoa New Zealand

Press release: Wednesday 1 June 2005

“Ko Ia – he or she”
A health promotion first for Aotearoa New Zealand

Promoting hauora/wellness through story telling is at the core of “Ko Ia – he or she”, a health promotion resource to be launched by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation - Te Tuuaapapa Mate Aaraikore O Aotearoa at Wellington on Friday.

The resource is believed to be the first in Aotearoa New Zealand produced specifically for whakawahine (Maori male to female transgender).

Participants at the launch will include such well-known transgender personalities as former Wellington nightclub owner and entertainer Carmen Rupe, and Mama Tere, who runs Te Aronga Hou Inaianei, a health and support programme for street people in South Auckland. MP Georgina Beyer might also be attending. Their stories are among those included in “Ko Ia – he or she”.

A production of Hau Ora Takatapui, the Foundation’s Maori HIV prevention programme, “Ko Ia – he or she” uses the stories of the whakawahine featured to inspire others to make healthy choices, realise that they are not alone, reduce the risk of becoming HIV positive and know that there is support available. In keeping with the Ottawa (Health) Charter this resource works on improving supportive environments to enhance the ability for individuals and communities to increase healthy behaviour.

NZAF Tumuwhakahaere/ National Manager of Health Promotion Te Herekiekie Herewini says that while HIV statistics for whakawahine and other male to female transgender are not separated out of national statistics for HIV among men-who-have-sex-with-men, there is strong anecdotal evidence that a lack of whanau and community support for transgendered people has contributed to their being over-represented in self harm behaviours.
These can include drug and alcohol abuse and unsafe sex. Many become isolated from their whanau through a lack of support and understanding, often ending up on the streets and surviving through prostitution.

“By creating a resource where whakawahine can tell their inspirational stories of survival and finding places of acceptance, we hope to encourage others to take positive steps toward their own health and wellbeing,” Te Herekiekie Herewini says. “The resource also helps people understand that transgender are not sick, abnormal or outsiders. They are a part of the human spectrum and have much to contribute to their whanau and communities when they are given the opportunities to do so.”


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