Wednesday, 3 February 2021
UCD STUDENTS’ UNION CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE SEXUAL HEALTH SERVICES
UCD Students’ Union wrote to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, asking him to restore free access to HIV testing and PrEP services via the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS).
Conor Anderson, President, UCD Students’ Union;
‘Free access to HIV testing and PrEP services have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. We are calling on the government to restore all sexual health services urgently and in particular to reopen the Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS), which provided services to 12,000 people in 2019. The GMHS and related services are absolutely vital to LGBTQ+ young people, particularly those who would struggle with the cost of procuring private screening and PrEP services.
As a HIV+ person, I consider access to STI testing and sexual health services to be of critical importance, particularly for young people and people from marginalised backgrounds. There is an intense stigma around STI’s, and every institutional barrier put in the way of accessing sexual healthcare makes the stigma that much harder to fight. I recognise that we are in the middle of a pandemic, but like it or not, people have not put their sex lives on hold. There are those who can access private care, but all people deserve access to sexual health services, regardless of their ability to pay.’
Ruairí Power, Welfare Officer, UCD Students’ Union;
‘PrEP is 99% effective at preventing HIV. The introduction of free PrEP was a long-awaited progressive move which represented a major improvement in national prevention efforts. The continued closure of GMHS, the busiest PrEP service in the state, may well precipitate a major impact on HIV rates in the short term. The lack of availability of such services free at the point of entry has created a two-tier system where service access is determined based on ability to pay rather than clinical need.’