Over 600 signatures were collected as part of last weeks “give blood because we can’t” campaign.
The idea behind the campaign was to highlight the fact that, under current Irish legislation, any man who has ever had sexual contact with another man is banned for life from donating blood. This ban stands regardless of whether or not they used protection. The campaign also aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to become blood donors.
The reasoning behind the ban on men who have sex with men (MSM) is that this group are considered to be at a higher risk of infection with HIV/AIDS and certain types of hepatitis. This is despite the fact that donations are tested for infectious diseases.
Similar bans have been lifted in other countries, including the UK, where blood donations are now accepted from MSM, providing they haven’t engaged in sexual activities for a period of twelve months prior to donating.
The ban in the UK was lifted when the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs recommended the policy change after a study concluded that a total ban may breach equality legislation. They also noted that the risk of HIV reaching the blood supply would only increase by approximately 2%.
Speaking on the campaign in UCD, Paddy Guiney, Campaigns and Communications Officer, said that it was a great success. This he put down to volunteers who helped out by manning the stand in the Student Centre.
UCDSU LGBT coordinator Lee Jollans also commented on the success of the campaign. “Although it was a reasonably small campaign I feel we reached a lot of people. Most people I talked to hadn’t even heard of the MSM blood ban before, and were very enthusiastic to help our cause. Even if our petition doesn’t make a big difference, we got a lot of people who might not otherwise have done it to give blood, and we got the word out about the ban. Overall I can say that it was a success. We did what we set out to do and more,” said Jollans.
Speaking about the next step in the campaign, Paddy Guiney, UCDSU Campaigns and Communications officer, called on students to actively lobby their local TDs on this issue. “ Moving forward with the campaign…we plan to lobby Ministers and would encourage students in the coming weeks to lobby their TDs.”
– James Grannell