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City Weekend

Gynopedia: the online Wiki educating women in Hong Kong how to seek help for those awkward health care issues

American traveller Lani Fried established the site to give women a better understanding of female health care services around the world

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2016, 8:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 10:43am

An online health care database in the style of Wikipedia aims to educate women in Hong Kong about how to seek help for all those awkward health issues.

Gynopedia is being touted as a useful English-language health care resource for women living in or visiting the city.

The website is the brainchild of American Lani Fried, who felt compelled to create the database ahead of a year-long tour of Asia.

The 31-year-old English teacher has said how she encountered difficulty when accessing health care abroad.

Fried said on one occasion while living in Turkey, she even faced prejudice from a gynaecologist giving her a smear test because she was unmarried but had been sexually active.

“While living in Istanbul, I didn’t know much about the services and found it really hard to get ­access to them,” she said. “Afterwards, I thought it would be useful to have a resource like this to find the best health care. I am hoping more people will post contributions.”

Fried, who is currently teaching in Hanoi with her boyfriend Jared Hannum, said she had asked members of expat Facebook groups in various countries for contributions, as sometimes health care services were available but not well advertised.

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She said she hoped people would continue to add to Gynopedia’s Hong Kong section, as she had only visited the city for a holiday during her travels.

“The Hong Kong page is very new and by no means complete,” she said. “I’m not an expert on the city’s needs. I would leave that question to the people of Hong Kong, who would know better than me. But I do believe that, no matter where you live, Gynopedia can be an incredibly useful resource.”

Fried said she had not consulted the Department of Health or local women’s groups but hoped health professionals would contribute over time.

“The vision of the project is that, since it’s a Wiki, there will always be more information that can be contributed, and there will always be things to update,” she said.

“While I do hope the Hong Kong page already provides useful information, I consider it a starting point, and hope that many more users, no matter their gender, can continue to add information.

“It does not aim to be a general reference work. It has a more specific aim, and that’s to provide a comprehensive resource for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care.

“For the majority of us, we need to use public health care and find out about it from other people.”

Hong Kong has a prescription-only service for emergency contraception, which has previously caused controversy amongst campaigners who claim it is unnecessarily restrictive for women.

Commenting on the availability of the morning-after pill here, Fried said she believed the government should loosen the restrictions on accessing it.

“I have seen this come up again and again,” she said. “Many countries allow you easy access to emergency contraception but many do not. People who try to get it and cannot will just try to get it ­elsewhere. I think there should not be a prescription service for it. I think if it is legal to take, then it should be easily accessible.”

Fried said accessing female health care services was still taboo in some countries.

“In some countries, women feel bad about ­accessing birth control because they feel stigma,” she said. “They feel like they might be considered ­immoral or not chaste. That is why I had the idea of an open Wiki; you do not have to talk to anyone, you can just consult the Wiki.”

Marcy LaRont, president of the American Women’s Association in Hong Kong, said it would be a ­useful resource for expats and travellers particularly.

“It’s a great idea and if it expands into covering less developed countries in Asia, it will have an even greater value,” she said.

LaRont said she was generally very happy with the standard of health care in Hong Kong.

“Most of the women in our organisation, and in the expat world in general, who I have had the opportunity to speak with about health care, have only rave reviews,” she said.

Gynopedia so far includes 17 countries but Fried hopes to expand the number. She recently added a page for Rio as travellers headed to the Olympics.

“It is getting a balance between what is technically legally allowed and what is the social reality,” she said. “The reaction so far has been really positive. People have said this should have already existed.”