Delegates at the Union of Students in Ireland Congress have passed a motion to join calls for the reopening of the Gay Men’s’ Health Service (GMHS) clinic and other sexual healthcare facilities that are currently closed or highly restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
USI will now lobby for these services to be reinstated as a matter of urgency – the GMHS is currently only open for returning PrEP patients, leaving no services for other issues affecting gay men and the rest of the LGBTQI+ community and others.
While a phased reintroduction of STI services is currently under way, this needs to be sped-up, as access to important sexual health services cannot continue to be denied.
At present, GMHS is Ireland’s only dedicated statutory sexual health and wellbeing service for gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men and the trans population.
USI Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, Marie Lyons said: “Today marks 386 days that the Gay Men’s’ Health Service has been closed. That’s 386 days with no access to STI testing, 386 days of no access to PEP and PrEP, 386 days of no access to HIV Prevention, 386 days of no access to vaccines and 386 days of no access to counselling – this cannot continue.”
“The reopening of the GMHS clinic is vital as almost 12,000 gay and bisexual men and trans people availed of testing, treatment, vaccination and prevention services at the clinic last year.”
The motion, proposed by TU Dublin Students’ Union and supported by the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, will mandate the USI Executive Team to lobby for the reopening of the GMHS clinic and other sexual healthcare facilities.
Deputy President TU Dublin (Blanchardstown Campus) Students’ Union, Luke Daly said: “It is devastating to see that these lifesaving services have been left unsupported. Our rates of HIV diagnoses are still well above European averages. COVID-19 is not the first large-scale health issue we’ve seen in this lifetime, it is just the most publicised. The LGBTQI+ community faced the HIV and AIDS epidemic back in the 80s and 90s and yet here we are a year on, missing four effective testing and treating methods. It is extremely disappointing, and we need to reopen services and start investing into specialised queer health services.”