The Icelandic Centre for Communicable Disease Control has recently recommended that gay men are permitted to donate blood on the condition that they would be required to abstain from sexual activity at least six months before donating. This has not gone down well with the gay community and tonight, Monday 8th of October, The National Queer Organisation, Samtökin ’78 is having an open meeting to discuss this news. The vice chair of Samtökin ´78, Unnsteinn Jóhannsson, talks to GayIceland about the meeting and the reaction from the gay community.
“We want to get together with members of Samtökin ’78 and others interested to discuss the newest development regarding the MSM blood donation, after the reference from the Centre for Communicable Disease Control and also discuss new developments in these matters in the countries close to us,” Unnsteinn explains.
Are you surprised by the harsh reaction this news has been getting from gay men?
“No. I totally see why this has not been received as a positive move. I feel like probably most gay, bi and pan men are getting tired of always having to prove we are good enough and that we are still in the year 2018 not fully acknowledged as “good enough”. I think this is just one of tons of other signals we are given everyday, sometimes called micro aggression or minority aggression, that pile up in a heap and say: “prove you are good enough for us normal society.” This also shows how we are still dealing with the tabu surrounding HIV and how stigmatized HIV is.”
“I can’t really see how and who is going to be running around keeping an eye on who is having sex with whom.”
What is your personal opinion on the matter?
“Personally I feel that this is a step forward and with this we are at least getting closer to what the UK and Denmark, for example, are doing. At the same time celibacy that is directed to one group of people is not at all optimal, as I said in an interview this summer when asked about the Danish way. I can’t really see how and who is going to be running around keeping an eye on who is having sex with whom. I want to see a general rule that does not exclude people from giving blood based on who they sleep with.”
In other countries, Spain for example, gay and bisexual men are allowed to donate blood, why do
you think Iceland is not going in that direction?
“This is a recommendation from the Directorate of Health. We will have to see what the ministry will do next. I urge Svandìs Svavarsdóttir Minister of Health to look into how Italy and Spain tackle this. We want to belive Iceland should be a role model and more progressive. So let’s lead with example.”
Would it not be more in tune with other countries to look to risk taking behaviour in sexual activities rather than to sexual orientation?
“Yes, this should rather be a general thing. We see that screening for infected blood is developing so quickly and the science is getting better and better. So this should much rather be a general rule for people who participate in risky behavior than MSM.”
What are your hopes for the outcome of this meeting tonight?
“We hope that the meeting on monday will be a good opportunity to sit down and discuss and take the temperature from the queer community on this issue and get some guidance in what steps they would like us to take next.”
Is The National Queer Organisation going to issue a public declaration about the matter?
“We will see what comes from the discussions on monday and the next weeks. We will ask for a meeting with The Chief Epidemiologist at the Directorate of Health and hear from the ministry. We have not said the last word in this matter. We are looking forward to meet tonight and have this dialog with our members and we will use the discussions we have with them as a guiding light for the next steps.”