Gay men will be allowed to donate blood as of next week, with a blanket ban on blood donation for men who have sexual relationships with other men (MSM) being lifted.
The ban was lifted after the National Blood Transfusion Service acquired advanced testing equipment.
Last year around 17,000 people visited the Blood Donation Unit and gave their blood, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Wednesday.
That number is expected to rise now that the specialised equipment will allow for Nucleic Acid Testing.
This type of testing will allow testers to identify HIV and other viruses in the blood earlier, as it tests for genetic material rather than antigens or antibodies.
A spokesman for the National Blood Transfusion Service said that restrictions for MSM had been eased and that gay men would be able to donate blood after abstaining from sex for one year.
Dr Fearne said despite launching with an initial one-year deferral period, this may eventually be trimmed down to four months after epidemiological results from the new NAT testing are verified.
Pride Week timing
In reaction, the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) welcomed the news that gay men would now be able to donate blood. They however noted that the announcement coincided conveniently close to ongoing Pride Week celebrations.
MGRM has insisted that, given the effectiveness of modern testing equipment, it is no longer reasonable to require long periods of abstinence from people, especially those in monogamous relationships, to be able to donate blood.
The NGO said that it has always been open to dialogue in order to better contribute to matters of sexual health as well in the noble gesture of donating blood.
MGRM Launches HIV Malta Campaign with a Three-Year Action Plan
The Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) has today launched its new HIV Malta campaign and website www.HIVMalta.com. HIV Malta’s objectives are to destigmatise HIV, start a conversation on the subject by making information easily accessible, promote the importance of mental wellbeing, and ensure that there is an ongoing commitment to make newly developed HIV medication including that which is preventive, available without any further delay.
Given the significant global improvement in the understanding of the virus and new antiretrovirals (ARVs) with less side effects, individuals living with HIV can now expect to live a normal healthy life. Research endorsed by WHO and the CDC shows that effective treatment suppresses the viral load making the virus undetectable and therefore untransmittable (Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U). This can only be achieved through rapid and unobstructed access to modern medicine and treatment, with the best results seen in those countries where treatment has been reduced from 5-6 a day to a single tablet a day.
The single-tablet treatment regimen is still not available in Malta. Some of the drugs currently being administered have even, for long, been struck off from international medical guidelines (EACS and WHO). Like other stakeholders, MGRM remains in the dark with respect to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for improved treatment launched in February 2019, and although imminent news is expected about new treatment, to date, there has been no consultation with us stakeholders. It also remains unclear whether additional services listed in the RFP would eventually lead to partial or total privatisation of HIV-related care which is very much a public matter. Questions on whether this would require sharing of data also remained unanswered.
Similarly, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill which reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by over 99%, remains not affordable for the most members of society and might therefore not be accessible by those who would mostly benefit from it. Although this is a marked improvement over the previous situation where PrEP was not available locally, we cannot help but comment on the fact that the same generic treatment sold in Malta at a price of EUR 57, is available for purchase online, and in several other European countries, at around half the price.
Even more shockingly, Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), an emergency treatment administered after possible exposure to HIV, provided solely at Mater Dei comes at EUR 600, notwithstanding the continuous and repeated appeals to make it free. Individuals who are unable to afford paying this unreasonable price are turned away. This irresponsible approach to preventative treatment comes at the expense of avoidable HIV diagnosis, and the financial cost of a lifetime of care and treatment.
Against this background, MGRM will be announcing several projects, including a new messaging campaign on dating apps, and other specific projects within different sectors of the community. HIV Malta aims to work in tandem with other NGOs and stakeholders including PrEPingMalta, the Allied Rainbow Communities and the newly set-up Checkpoint Malta to bring this plan to fruition.
Furthermore, the Rainbow Support Services which is now in its sixth year, remains committed to enhancing the quality of life of LGBTIQ individuals including those living with HIV, through the provision of information, consultation and psycho-social welfare services.
MGRM – HIV Malta Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement HIVMalta.com
Malta should intervene and offer a safe port of disembarkation to migrants currently stranded on board NGO-operated rescue vessels, 23 NGOs said on Friday.
Some 350 migrants are currently waiting on board the Ocean Viking rescue vessel, which is operated by Doctors Without Borders and the NGO SOS Mediterranee, after having been rescued earlier in the week.
“As Malta swelters in the summer heat, over 350 men, women and children are out at sea, stranded aboard rescue vessels waiting to be allowed to land,” the NGOs said.
They added that despite repeated requests to Italy and Malta for a safe port, to date neither member state has allowed disembarkation and none of the member states of the EU have stepped in to offer refuge to those on board.
“As days turn into weeks and EU member states continue to drag their feet, conditions on board the two ships worsen and people’s life and safety are compromised.”
The NGOs said that “in the face of this callous disregard for human life” they were urging Malta to “once again lead by example and to allow the people stranded on board the rescue vessels to disembark in Malta.
This should be done irrespective of whether Malta was legally responsible for their disembarkation in terms of international law.
At 1pm on August 12, Antonin, @SOSMedIntl rescuer, was on bridge watch onboard the #OceanViking when he spotted a blurred shape on the horizon. It turned out it was a rubber boat about to deflate with 105 people on it.
On board now, 356 survivors waiting for a place of safety.
They said it was unacceptable to argue that the migrants should be returned to Libya, where they risk imprisonment in inhuman conditions, torture, rape and slavery. “Libya cannot be considered a safe port by any definition, so it is imperative that another solution is found for the rescued migrants.”
“It is equally objectionable to imply that any state is somehow justified in refusing to allow the disembarkation of people rescued by NGOs. International maritime law is clear: the priority is to save lives and to ensure disembarkation in a place of safety, regardless of who conducted the rescue. Saving lives is therefore a legal obligation, and under no circumstances can it be considered wrong or – at worst – a crime,” the NGOs said.
member states, have a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution, the NGO said, adding that Europe closing its doors to such people was “beyond reprehensible”.
The Ocean Viking was situated to the north-west of Malta on Friday afternoon
Finally, they added that it was clear that countries like Malta, Italy and Greece could not and should not be left to deal with this “European challenge” alone.
Furthermore, it is amply clear that the member states at the external borders of Europe, like Malta, Italy and Greece, cannot and should not be left to deal with this European challenge alone.
European Union institutions and member states, the NGOs said, need to take collective responsibility for the “tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep” and to take concrete steps to ensure that, wherever they are disembarked, people are received in conditions of dignity.
The NGOs that signed the statement are:
aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Caritas Malta, The Critical Institute, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents Group, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service, Kopin, LGBTI+ Gozo, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Maltese Association of Psychiatry, Men Against Violence, MGRM-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Moviment Graffitti, OASI Foundation, Office of the Dean – Faculty of Education University of Malta, People for Change Foundation, Richmond Foundation, SOS Malta, SPARK 15.
Gay men will only be allowed to donate blood if they abstain from sex for at least one year prior – and authorities have yet to say when blood donations from gay donors will be allowed.
Following reports that men who have sex with men (MSM) would be able to give blood by the end of summer, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry told Times of Malta “final preparations” were under way but did not specify a date by when the system is expected to be functioning. Similar announcements were made in August last year, this January and again in April.
The spokeswoman did not specify either whether the one-year deferral period would distinguish between MSM who have had multiple partners or those in monogamous relationships. They only said that the deferral period would be reviewed periodically.
“There are various factors to consider when deferral criteria for any situation are applied,” the spokeswoman said.
How do other countries handle donations from gay men?
Deferral periods for MSM vary from country to country. In Italy, Spain, Poland and Russia, among others, no deferral policies are in place. Instead, individual sexual risk evaluations are carried out, followed by testing.
In the UK and Canada, the deferral period is set at three months.
Denmark is expected to lift its ban on MSM blood donations and set the deferral period to three months. France will be cutting the deferral period from one year to four months.
Other countries, such as the USA, Finland and Sweden, have one-year deferral periods in place.
What do LGBTIQ activists say?
LGBTIQ activists welcomed the news that gay men would be allowed to donate blood.
However, they said that continuous sexual health awareness was critical and that better resources should be allocated to the GU clinic to allow conscientious people to assume responsibility for their sexual health before considering donating blood.
A spokesman for the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) said that, given the effectiveness of modern testing equipment, the prohibition of MSM from blood donation had not been justified for some years.
“It is especially discriminatory to exclude those in a monogamous relationship, regardless of their sexuality, from being able to participate in the noble act of donating blood, potentially saving lives,” he commented.
Clayton Mercieca, community manager at Allied Rainbow Communities (Arc), said that while the rule change would allow MSM to donate blood, it did not represent and change in mindset and continued to feed into a stereotype about gay men that was resulting in ignorant and homophobic attitudes.
“We still are considered high risk, whether we engage in high-risk sexual activity or not,” Mr Mercieca told Times of Malta.
“It would be wiser to invest in more education and awareness about STIs and how they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation,” he said.
Both organisations shared their concerns about the situation at the GU clinic, which, they noted, was understaffed and where appointments for testing were being given with a waiting time of up to two months in some instances.
A transgender woman has claimed that she was punched in the face at an Msida bus stop in an apparent homophobic attack.
The woman, who was returning home from work, stopped on the Kulleġġ bus stop on the Msida waterfront at a pastizzeria on Sunday.
A man who frequents the shop often, the woman said, took issue with her presence and called her a homophobic slur.
She said that the man became violent when she answered back. He hit and punched her in the face and pulled out chunks of her hair.
“He raised his hand to me, he punched me in the face and ripped out my hair,” she said.
“I tried to defend myself and that’s when people started to intervene.”
The woman managed to snap a picture of her alleged attacker after the fact, which she posted onto social media.
A picture of the alleged aggressor taken by victim
Speaking to Times of Malta, the woman said that while LGBTIQ people enjoyed many rights on paper, the reality on the ground was that attacks such as this one happen with some frequency to several people in the community.
“The thing that hurts me the most is that transgender people who came out in the 80s and 90’s cannot move forward. They keep getting attacked and labelled with their past, they are ignored by society and it doesn’t get better for them.”
The woman said she would not be pursuing the matter with the police as she has been in trouble with the law in the past and going back to the courts would only be “punishing” herself.
“I’m trying my best and I’m not hurting anyone, just let me live,” she said.
A spokesman for the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) said that it is “unacceptable that in this day and age we still come across shameless acts of abuse in broad daylight, right in front of everybody.”
The woman’s identity is being withheld at her own request.
Thirteen organisations working with children have united under one umbrella network to serve as a united voice for children and to ensure their rights are enshrined in the law.
Called the Malta Children’s Associations Network (MaltaCAN), this new platform was inspired by Eurochild president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and is being set up to promote, foster and support children’s rights and child participatory mechanisms in Malta.
“This is the first network of its kind in Malta and I believe it will open up new possibilities for the effective implementation of children’s rights at a local level. It will also consolidate the efforts of all these 13 organisations – and others who wish to join – to achieve meaningful child participation in all sectors of our society,” President Emeritus Coleiro Preca said.
The network is being facilitated by the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society as part of its fifth anniversary celebrations. It will be aligning its work to the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, which celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year, and prioritising child participation through an integrative and collaborative approach.
The founding members include: the Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, Assistance to Children in Care Association (ACICA), Birdlife Malta, Fondazzjoni Sebħ, Karl Vella Foundation, Church Schools Children’s Fund, Malta Dyslexia Association, Malta Girl Guides, MGRM, National Foster Care Association Malta (NFCAM), Right2Smile, Early Childhood Development Association Malta (ECDAM); Salesians of Don Bosco together with the Salesians Pastoral Youth Services.
Interested NGOs who would like to join MaltaCAN, are to get in touch with the network via e-mail on email@example.com or contact MaltaCAN on Facebook.
Despite often being referred to as one of the world’s friendliest and safest countries, particularly in relation to the LGBT+ community, Malta still has a lot to learn about gender identity. There’s still a bit of a taboo and a level of stigma surrounding the trans community and the notion of gender fluidity.
One Maltese organisation is setting out to change this.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) is launching a new documentary about being a Trans individual in Malta
TRANSformazzjoni is a documentary that provides an insight into Trans peoples’ everyday lives in Malta. The documentary puts a spotlight on 5 Maltese Trans people from different walks of life giving full visibility to a wide range of people in the local Trans community, which all represent their own section of Maltese society that different people can relate to.
Directed by Olwyn Jo, known for her involvement in many local productions and music videos, TRANSformazzjoni will give viewers an insight into life as a member of the Trans community in Malta.
It follows the daily lives of Alex, Brenda, Lee, Reb and Roasrio; five local individuals of varying ages who identify as Trans*.
*The general definition of transgender is as follows; denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. However, an individual’s gender identity is best only explained by the individual themselves. This will be further explored in the documentary, too.
TRANSformazzjoni will also serve as an educational tool, featuring the recent laws and policies directed to enhancing the lives of Trans people in Malta
You can catch the premiere of TRANSformazzjoni on the 7th of June at 7pm at the University of Malta, Valletta Campus. To book a place at the premiere, email or message them on Facebook. And keep an eye out on their socials for more information on where to catch the documentary after the premiere.
Firsthand Accounts Of Malta’s LGBT+ Students Show We’ve Still Got A Long Way To Go
40% of students said that teachers ‘never intervened’ when they were present for episodes of bullying
While Malta tops the ranks in terms of LGBTQ+ legislation, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of day-to-day acceptance of minority groups and marginalised communities in general.
In fact, the latest study by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) which focused on understanding the experiences of LGBTQ+ persons between the ages of 13 and 22 who had been in an educational institution for the 2016-2017 scholastic year, has proven that we still have a long way to go before Malta can truly claim that it is fully queer-friendly.
The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report have found some damning statistics about the way LGBTQ+ student are treated in school, and how they in turn feel about the education system they were, or still are being raised in.
1. Safety at School
A scary number of respondents said they’ve experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia at school before.
Of the 139 students who participated in the study, half of them said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
A further 41% felt unsafe due to their gender identity or the way they express their gender, with many respondents also saying they felt unsafe because of other uncontrollable characteristics, such as family income or disbaility among others.
This lack of safety even causes students to miss lessons
With a number of students feeling uncomfortable and avoiding certain areas of the school such as locker rooms and hallways while over a quarter of them even skipped Physical Education (PE) Lessons completely.
Over a third of the students (34%) felt so unsafe in their conditions that they missed at least one full day of school.
In terms of homophobic language, 46.8% of students reported that they received derogatory comments such as pufta and linfa often or frequently. The study also found that 61.9% of these said that they received the insults from some or most students.
Many participants (33.1%) even said that some homophobic remarks came from teachers and members of staff
For gender expression and identity, 49.3% and 40.3% of students received offensive and transphobic remarks often or frequently, respectively.
In brief, over half of respondents (59.4% and 55.5%) of participants reported being verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation and gender expression, while a further 36.1% experienced harassment based on their gender identity at least once in the previous scholastic year.
Many respondents also said that they had been physically harassed because of their sexual and gender personality, with 22.6% for their sexual orientation, 21.7% for their gender expression and 14.9% for their gender identity.
Unfortunately, some of the participants even reported being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, injured with a weapon)
8.6% of people said this occurred because of their sexual identity, 13% said it was because of their gender identity, and 8.8% said it was caused by their gender expression.
What makes these statistics even worse is that 40.4% of people said that teachers ‘never intervened’ when they were present for these types of bullying
3. The bullying unfortunately doesn’t stop there
Unfortunately, apart from the before mentioned harassment, many of the study’s participants also reported being victims of other forms of bullying, such as:
Being purposefully excluded (81.4%)
Had rumour spread about them (73.5%)
Broken or stolen property (30.9%)
Racist comments (54.7%)
A terrifying 43.3% of LGBTQ+ students even reported being sexually harassed at school
On a slightly more positive note…
36.4% of respondents reported these forms of harassment and bullying to school staff, however only 11.7% did this ‘most of the time’.
At least, school staff apparently handled the situation ‘somewhat’ or ‘very effectively’ 32.1% of the time
Students also reportedly informed their parents or family members 36.4% of the time, but many of them (39.3%) never addressed it with any of the school staff.
The only heartwarming fact highlighted in this study found that a whopping 95.6% of LGBTQ+ students said there was at least one supportive teacher or staff member at their school, and 62.2% said that they had six or more
Furthermore, 46.3% of people were accepting to the LGBTQ+ students, with some schools even reportedly having multiple students out of the closet.
Unfortunately, despite this, many schools still do not teach and inform young people about LGBTQ+ topics and history, which means that kids are often uninformed for certain important subjects such as sexual health
On the other hand, 40% of students say that sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity were brought up and discussed during talks about violence.
How can we change these statistics?
The study found that a more inclusive environment made the student body as a whole a lot more accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
It was also concluded that more supportive teachers who actually intervene during homophobic and transphobic conflicts, and a more informative curriculum also helped queer individuals to feel safer, and which may be the reason that they missed less days of school than those LGBTQ+ students who felt unsafe or unhappy in their situation at school.
What’s the next step we need to take to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ youth?
The survey report ends with a section listing a number of possible and, frankly, quite simple fixes to the current system that can significantly impact the student climates found in schools.
Implementing national, LGBTQ+ inclusive bullying policies that prevent victimisation, providing transgender and gender variant students with equal access to non-discriminatory facilities (such as gender-neutral bathrooms), and ensuring that school policies such as dress codes do not discriminate against queer students, are just a few of the suggestions put forward by the MGRM.
The quotes in purple are taken directly from some of the participants of The 2017 Malta National School Climate Survey Report
Malta kklassifikat l-aqwa fid-dinja fil-ġlieda kontra l-omofobija u l-protezzjoni abbażi tal-orjentazzjoni sesswali. Dan ikkonfermatu l-Assoċjazzjoni Internazzjonali tal-Persuni Leżbjani, Gay, Bisesswali, Trans u Intersex f’rapport ippubblikat fi New Zealand.
Ir-rapport juri kif Malta hi l-unika pajjiż li ssodisfa l-kriterji kollha tal-ILGA World li jinkludu l-protezzjoni Kostituzzjonali, il-protezzjoni fil-liġi tax-xogħol, il-protezzjoni kontra kull forma ta’ diskriminazzjoni u mibegħda, iż-żwieġ ugwali u l-unjoni ċivili. Kriterji oħra jinkludu addozzjoni konġunta jew addozzjoni mit-tieni ġenitur, u l-projbizzjoni ta’ prattiċi ta’ konverżjoni jew ir-riklamar tagħhom.
B’reazzjoni għal dan ir-rapport, il-Ministru Helena Dalli qalet kif dan ir-riżultat li ħareġ minn rapport li sar minn organizzazzjoni li ilha mwaqqfa għal erbgħin sena fejn spjegat kif għandna nkunu sodisfatti ferm b’din il-kisba.
“Hija xi ħaġa tajba u importanti li Malta tinsab l-ewwel fid-dinja fejn tidħol l-ugwaljanza. Qabel konna l-ewwel fl-ewropa issa ġejna l-ewwel fid-dinja. Meta tara l-pajjiżi li hemm warajna pereżempju l-aktar viċin tagħna huwa l-kanada. Huwa pajjiż avvanzat fejn tidħol ugwaljanza però għad ma jissodfiswawx il-kriterji kollha li trid tissodisfa skont dan ir-rapport biex ikollok ugwaljanza totali. Ovvjament aħna nieħdu gost għax in-nies qed igawdu mix-xogħol li għamilna f’leġislazzjoni f’dan il-qasam, issa qed jgħixu ħajja aħjar,” qalet il-Ministru Dalli.
Dan kien possibbli wara li l-Gvern implimenta numru ta’ riformi leġiżlattivi li poġġew lil Malta fil-quċċata Ewropea f’dan il-qasam.
Din l-aħbar issegwi dik li ħarġet ftit tal-jiem ilu meta pajjiżna għall-ewwel darba għamilha mal-aqwa għaxar destinazzjonijiet turistiċi għall-persuni LGBTIQ.
The LGBT Christian Group Drachma this morning published an open letter addressed individually to gay persons, telling them that any attempt to “heal yourself” from “your sexual orientation” will cause “irreparable harm”.
“Do not try to suppress it,” the group writes. “Do not marry to hide it. You would be doing harm to the one you marry too. Do not try to change your orientation just because one section of society does not accept you. It is society that needs to change; it is society that needs healing.”
The full letter is below
Dear gay person,
Congratulations for being a perfectly normal human person. You are not sick or mentally disordered. You are not bad. It is not your or your parent’s fault that you are gay. It’s nobody’s mistake. Indeed, there is no fault or mistake involved at all. The Bible does not condemn you. Of course not. How could it condemn you, when it says that you were wonderfully made, and created in God’s own image?
How can the Bible condemn you, when you are God’s beloved son or daughter? Instead, feel bound by the Bible’s core moral teachings:
be loving and kind, be forgiving and merciful, be honest and be just.
Work for harmony and peace. Stand up for truth. To do that is to follow the Bible.
To do that is to follow God’s way. To do that is to love God with all your heart and soul. To do that is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Please do not try to change your sexual orientation. Do not try to ‘heal’ what is not an illness.
The truth is that you can’t, anyway, even if someone someday were to pronounce you ‘healed’.
You are different. Of course, you are different:
some of us are left-handed, others are right-handed; some are tall, some are thin; some of us have pink skin, others are light brown or dark brown.
It is in accepting who you really are that will help you grow as a person. You may need help from a qualified person to do this (but before you consult any, do make sure that they are indeed qualified).
If you try to ‘heal’ yourself of your sexual orientation, you will be doing yourself irreparable harm.
Do not try to suppress it. Do not marry to hide it. You would be doing harm to the one you marry too.
Do not try to change your orientation just because one section of society does not accept you.
It is society that needs to change; it is society that needs healing. One day, you may meet someone with whom you can build a long-lasting relationship, a relationship that is special, intimate, beyond friendship, a loving, fruitful relationship in which you can help each other to flourish.
Of course, you are free to lead a chaste and celibate life. That will be your decision, but that does not mean you are no longer gay.
Even some straight people do that,but that doesn’t mean they are no longer straight either.
Whatever your decision, please count us always as your friends.