The Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) congress today mandated the union’s executive team to lobby for the reopening of the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS) and other sexual health services, and to lobby the Department of Health for increased resources to improve accessibility to sexual health services.
The GMHS – which is the only statutory sexual health service for gay men, bisexual men, men who have sex with men and transgender people in Ireland – was closed at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, 2020 and its staff were redeployed to coronavirus test centres.
Speaking in favour of the motion, Luke Daly of the Technological University of Dublin Students’ Union (TUDSU) said: “We are now over a year into the closure of the GMHS, often a safe haven for my community. A specialised healthcare service which caters for people like many of us in this room.”
“We are here, we are queer and unfortunately we are left without life saving services. This service understands us – this service saves our lives.”
“I just want you to take inventory that since we are over a year and HIV can take up to three months to show in effective testing, we have now missed four cycles of effective test and trace and treat systems within our communities.”
Also speaking in favour of the motion, USI Vice President for Welfare Maire Lyons said: “Today marks 368 days that the Gay Men’s Health Service has been closed, 386 days without any access to STI testing, no access to PEP or PREP, no access to HIV prevention, no access to vaccines and no access to counselling.”
“The reopening of this service is vital. Almost 12,000 gay and bisexual men and trans people availed of testing, treatment, vaccination and prevention service at this clinic last year. This issue is not going to go away anytime soon. We need to work with groups including ACT UP and many others in calling for specialised health services for the LGBTQ+ community across the island.”
USI congress – by the passing of the motion – expressed regret that when the Health Service Executive (HSE) piloted a programme for at home STI testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV, the “pilot programme was launched only in Cork, Kerry and Dublin and after a day of opening the programme it was temporarily halted after thousands of orders were placed for the kits.”