Blood Donation Petition

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride nzd.com. [00:00:05] So my name is Troy hacker. I am originally from Dayton but I'm a Washingtonian these days. I'm an ops manager up here in Wellington. I'm often auto deceived. And at the moment in New Zealand gaming, and any man who has sex with another man has to wait 12 months after having sex that's anal or oral with or without a condom, before they're allowed to donate blood. Why is that? At the moment, the reason that that rule exists is because of the risk of HIV. So in the 1980s Gaming were seem to be the ones who were transmitting HIV in particular in the United States, where it really became prevalent. In the 1980's. the Reagan administration even termed it as gay man's cancer, which is a pretty negative connotation to put on both the community and also on HIV. In New Zealand, we still have this rule in place, and it's a bit of a hangover from that era, originally Hmm. was very difficult to tasteful. And so at first, there was actually a lifetime ban for any man who had sex with another man. But about 20 years ago, they reverse that and made it a five year standard down period. And it was actually only 2014 when the law in New Zealand became a 12 month stand down period [00:01:19] 12 months still seems a very long time given that now you can do a rapid blood test in within a minute. Know your HIV status. [00:01:28] It does especially when that blood when it's taken from a person at the Blood Service is tested every single time. Blood, HIV can take a maximum of three months to show up on a blood test. So 12 months seems far too long. [00:01:43] So what's your experience about you know, donating blood here in New Zealand? [00:01:47] Yeah, so the first time I tried to donate blood was when I was 16 years old. I was in high school. I was at a Catholic school down into Needham, and we had a blood drive. The Blood Service came out tried to encourage a lot of people to donate blood for the first time. And I thought, yes, absolutely, I want to participate in society and do something good. So I went down to the Blood Service with a bunch of my classmates. And it was there that they hand you the list of all of the restrictions. And one of them is men who have sex with other men by the age of 16. I wasn't ready to admit to myself that that was a thing that I was doing and going to continue doing throughout the rest of my life, let alone admit it in a room full of all of my classmates. So I faked a cold in order to get out of it. [00:02:30] What was that like seeing on a piece of paper that actually you weren't entitled to give blood? it [00:02:38] I think it was the first time that I'd experienced institutionalized homophobia. I grew up in a relatively small town just outside of Port Charmin just outside of Dinesen known as port charmers, and import China's queer community and culture wasn't something that was hugely public. In fact, I grew up in a town where we regarded the only gay man in town as That one person who was gay. It wasn't until I was older that I actually discovered that there were a lot more queer people around me and for charmers, I just hadn't noticed. [00:03:09] And when you were first wanting to give blood at the age of 16, what year was, [00:03:15] that would have been the year 2000. [00:03:18] Okay, so we're we're quite away from things like homosexual law reform, and even things like the Human Rights Act, which came in 1993. [00:03:26] That's right. So homosexual Law Reform came in in 1986, when I was told, and it's hard to believe that actually, that happened in my lifetime that in the time that I've been alive, it's been both illegal to be gay, and now illegal to be gay. But we've only just been given the right to marry and we still have to fight for some specific rights such as this. [00:03:47] So one of the things prior to this interview I saw online was on the New Zealand Blood Service website, where there was a document from 2014 where it was saying in some circumstances, It is okay to discriminate against gay in men who have sex with men to protect basically the blood supplies. [00:04:11] Talking about section three on page seven of that document, I believe I had a read of it actually a couple of months ago while I was putting the petition together. And it's an interesting paragraph because it says that it's okay for them to discriminate against gay men, because HIV may be detected. But it does then go on to say that the reason they're discriminating is not because of the HIV. It's because the Blood Service isn't equipped with counseling facilities if they find a positive result. [00:04:36] And when you read that, what I mean what did you think? [00:04:39] Well, it seems strange because [00:04:44] so we talk about HIV as if it's the when it comes to blood donation if it's as if it's the only sexually transmissible infection. There are other viruses that can be transmitted, and HIV has a confirmed case amount of just under 1400 in New Zealand. Which isn't actually very high. If you consider the hepatitis C, there were around 50,000 confirmed cases of now that one we have no statistics for based on sexuality. So I then question using that logic of not having counseling facilities. What happens if they get a positive hepatitis C result? [00:05:20] And just more even more simply, I mean, it seems to me that it's discrimination under the Human Rights Act where you can't discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. [00:05:31] Oh, well, it's a total cop out of them not wanting to deal with not having the counseling facilities or being able to pass it on to a professional. When it comes to the Human Rights Act. In New Zealand, we have a slight problem, where the Human Rights Act is not a supreme law in the same way that the United States Constitution is the supreme law. They can't pass laws in the US that infringe upon the Constitution, whereas the New Zealand the Human Rights Act itself, specifically states in part one of that act, that is possible to create other laws that supersede the New Zealand Bill of Rights. And that if there is a conflict, that the New Zealand Bill of Rights will bow to whichever bill has been passed after. [00:06:11] So you haven't thought about taking something to say to the Human Rights Commission, [00:06:15] I've considered it. But looking into it, it seems that in order to get this through to have it classed as an issue, and to get it before parliament, as a human rights violation, it would have to go through the Attorney General. And to get that high. It's something that I on an arts manager salary, cannot afford. So a petition as a way of getting all of the community involved was simply an easy way to get this public traction, get this up and running, get this in the media and then get this before the politicians. [00:06:47] So why now why this petition now because I mean, this has this policy has been in place for some time. [00:06:54] Well, this policy in its current form has been in place since 2014. And the reason I've decided to go ahead with this now is directly because of COVID-19. At the moment the Blood Service have been talking about a drop off in blood donations, because people don't want to go out and donate. But in the United States earlier this year, they changed the blood donation laws for queer men. So allow him to donate with a three month stand down period, if the United States able to bring this Lauren, and that's following suit from behind Canada in 2019, who also made it three months and the United Kingdom in 2017, who did the same thing. And if those three countries from whom we do quite often take legal and political guidance from are able to pass this regulation, then I don't see why New Zealand can't follow suit. We used to be a country that led the way in terms of liberal rights and equality, but I'm not sure what happened. [00:07:52] You've mentioned a number of countries and I'm just wondering, can you give me an overview of what the situation is? globally in terms of donating blood, [00:08:02] globally and around the world in terms of donating blood, there are three countries in Europe that have a four month stand down period for queer men, they have a Netherlands, Denmark and France. There are three Anglo Saxon countries that have a three month stand down period, the ones I mentioned, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the USA, New Zealand with the 12 months and down period is actually currently pretty on par with other countries around the world. And one thing that is different between New Zealand and Australia with a roll is also 12 months is there in New Zealand gaming are able to donate body tissue, such as semen organs. In Australia, their regulation actually requires a 12 month stand down period from the donation of anybody tissue or blood. So we're already here with our neighbors across the Tasman. There are of course some countries where homosexuality is still illegal. So we are headed, must say of the majority of countries, but it would nice to be nice Be able to keep that idea of New Zealand being a liberal and inclusive society. [00:09:05] So you're saying that in New Zealand, we can say gay men can, you know, donate body tissue? So this is obviously a conscious decision to exclude people from donating blood. Wyatt, why do you think this was a conscious decision here? When overseas got smaller timeframes? [00:09:27] The issue that we have in New Zealand is that because the people who are making the rules making these regulations and making these decisions aren't involved in a particular community, they only say it from the outside, which means when it comes to actually changing these regulations, when they're sitting in a room and they've got a big list of them in front of them. Talking about some community in which they're not directly involved, isn't going to be the first thing that comes to their mind. They're going to have other things on the table. Other issues, they need to talk about things which seem more important to them, forgetting that there's a What is it 6% of the population of New Zealand to home this is very, very personal. [00:10:06] So have you had any support from other rainbow organizations in New Zealand? With this petition? [00:10:13] Yeah, we have a good amount of media coverage from a couple of the queer magazines around New Zealand, which has been great. A number of the prime agencies around New Zealand have done some promotion on the petition as well. So we've received a good amount of support from the community so far, but more is always needed. [00:10:30] And if they've been on any organizations or individuals that have come up and said not actually, we need still to have 12 months in New Zealand, [00:10:37] Oh, of course, but not from the queer community. [00:10:39] So who's been saying [00:10:42] there's always groups on the outside who are fighting against the rights of queer people. Unfortunately, that still exists in New Zealand and that has still definitely happened. If you are interested in there. I honestly suggest going to our Facebook page either integrity in the Facebook page or my personal Facebook page, and just going through the comments beneath the petition itself. Some of them are fascinating. [00:11:06] Have there been any responses that have surprised [00:11:08] you? There have been a lot of responses that have surprised me. There's been a couple from members of the queer community who have said that they weren't aware of not being allowed to donate, because they themselves had previously donated. I did remind them that because this regulation already exists, they might want to get in touch with the Blood Service about that. And I have received a few from people I weren't expecting to see positive things from a couple of Christian churches have gotten in touch and asked if they could help as well. [00:11:40] So what are you trying to achieve with the petition? [00:11:43] Well, my goal is to change the regulation to make sure that gay men are and bisexual men are able to donate blood within New Zealand to change the regulation to actually match the science. If we can test for a virus within three months, then there's no need for a 12 month stand down period. We're also trying to make sure that that people recognize that gaming in a monogamous relationship have almost zero chance of picking up this virus. You can't get a virus of the virus isn't within one of the two of you or really. So gaming in a monogamous relationship shouldn't be treated any different to strike people in a monogamous relationship. Gaming shouldn't be treated different to straight people, either. [00:12:25] So am I right in thinking that at the moment, it's like a blanket deferral for any MSM or gay person that has hit six in the last 12 months rather than looking at an individual and looking at the risk? [00:12:38] That's correct. Any gay man who has any game in by man or any man who has sex with another man in the past 12 months is unable to donate blood and that's again, whether or not it's oral or anal sex and with or without a condom. And just to make it slightly more muddy, any woman who has had sex with a man who may have had sex with another man in the past 12 months Also cannot donate blood. [00:13:02] But surely there must be people already doing this where they don't identify as gay, don't necessarily acknowledge that they have sex with men, but would still donate. [00:13:12] And that's where it gets really messy because you're putting people in a really unusual position where you're asking them to devote something that they might not necessarily be ready to divulge, even within themselves that this is a thing that they've done. I mean, if a guy, straight man goes to a bar has a few drinks, wakes up next to another guy in the morning and doesn't know what happened the night before, but has an appointment to donate blood A few days later, that a conversation is going to want to have putting someone in that position is really unfair. It also is interesting with a woman who may have been with a man who may have been with another man. I mean, we like to trust our partners and we like to trust the people around us but honestly how much of what someone that you don't know very well has done. are you actually going to be able to believe Or ask [00:14:03] Are there other groups that also being the food for for blood collection in [00:14:08] New Zealand, the biggest one which has come up during running this petition is actually probably one of the largest groups who are also prohibited from donating blood in New Zealand. And that's the British. Anyone who has lived in Britain or France between a specific time period has a lifetime ban from donating blood in New Zealand. That's because in the 90s and the 80s, there was a surveillance of mad cow disease, which got into the beef supply that was put throughout supermarkets from British beef, and that beef ended up in both Britain and France, which is why France is included in that band. Unfortunately, there's a virus known as well. The Mad Cow virus creates a disease in humans known as cjd or Crutchfield Jacobs syndrome. Coatesville, Jacob syndrome lies dormant inside brain tissue and Stem Cell tissue, and it can become covalent in a person's life at any time. It lies time dormant as far as we can tell for their whole life. And at the moment, we know that cjd can be transferred via blood within animals, but we still having conflicting results with blood being transferred between people. Because HIV can be tested for within three months. And because there is no test for cjd, they're two very different cases. [00:15:32] So when did you launch the petition? [00:15:34] We started the petition two months ago, just at the end of level four. So we spent level four Luke, my co author, and I spent level four making sure we had all of our facts right, contacting everyone we needed to making sure we had all of the data and information. level four was the perfect time for us to be able to do that we had a bit more freedom. And then we launched the petition just at the end of level four. [00:15:55] And when we refer to level four, we're talking about the COVID-19 pandemic and level four being the state of alertness. I get some New Zealand. Oh, [00:16:04] yeah, that's right, the lockdown period that we have. [00:16:07] Yeah. Have you had any response from the New Zealand wetsuits, we've had [00:16:11] some dealings with the New Zealand Blood Service, they've been incredibly positive. They've been as supportive as they're allowed to be, and they've pointed us in the correct direction when we've needed it. That of course, they can only do what they would do for any other member of the public who was interested in the way their service runs. [00:16:31] Did you get anything from them that would suggest that they were looking at changing the the timeframes, [00:16:38] nothing concrete, but I know that the blood review committee is was intending to meet this month that has been deferred because of the COVID-19 locked down restrictions. Hopefully they'll be meeting in a couple of months and we are aiming to get this petition on the table in front of them. [00:16:53] And if you spoken with any current rainbow MPs about this issue, not just [00:16:59] rainbow, one day have spoken with a number of MPs about this issue to make sure that it's across as many people as I can possibly get in contact with. I have not been quiet about this petition, that's for sure. [00:17:10] Well, I guess I'm thinking about the rainbow politicians just to see what what do they think of us? Are they in support of us? What are they doing? [00:17:20] Again, they've been in as in support as they're allowed to be of a member of the public. I would love if the rainbow politicians and even some of the non rainbow politicians could come out and say, please support this petition from Troy and I would love for that to happen to understand the politics and why that hasn't done. [00:17:36] So what is the journey from here so you complete the petition? dingy presented to Parliament or [00:17:44] or basically what will happen from here is we'll keep the petition running right up until the day we have to press print on the amount of signatures that we've got. By that point. I'm aiming to have at least 4000 signatures on this petition. We're currently at 1600 so it's going great once the petition is printed. Will the intake it before now we're waiting on advice as to whether or not it's best to deliver it to the House of Representatives themselves directly to the health committee, or to the blood Review Committee, which of the three of those will be best to take it to? And as soon as we know the answer to exactly which direction we're supposed to go, we will take that as soon as we are able to, we're going to get this to wherever it needs to be to make sure this regulation gets changed. [00:18:25] So obviously, for you, this has been something quite personal. I mean, from a 16 year old who couldn't donate blood to to now. I mean, talk to me a bit about that, because obviously, you need a passion to drive something like this. [00:18:40] It's been one of those things that's been on the back of my mind most of my life. So when I was 16 years old, I was also heavily involved in the youth council down into NATO, and spent a lot of time working in politics throughout most of my life. And this has been something that I have quietly been nagging about in the background. wherever I am. So being able to lead this petition myself and try to finally get it through has been amazing actually seeing the amount of response that has come from the community actually seeing how much this has affected other people and actually getting to talk to other people about their experiences. Many people out there have had similar experiences to the one I had at the age of 16. [00:19:21] One of the comments I saw online was, in having this kind of deferral, you basically kind of create a negative stereotype for people about the words I saw were due to blood, you know, gaming, heavy duty blood. [00:19:37] I like to think of that as being the term unclean, and I only like to use the term unclean because that's what they use, again, Catholic educated, that's what they use in the Bible to describe things that they considered as, quote unquote, dirty. So we have the stigma of gay blood being unclean blood, but there's more than just that the stigma that this regulation creates is also the idea that HIV is still a gay man's disease. And we're seeing a rise in the amounts of heterosexuals in New Zealand who have HIV as well as around the world. It also creates a negative stigma around HIV itself, meaning people who have been confirmed with HIV live long and normal lives thanks to the medication and the progress that has happened out there. [00:20:26] So ultimately, a you're looking for New Zealand to follow other countries. So doing a three month deferral. [00:20:34] Ultimately, what I'd like to say is those in a monogamous relationship being able to donate immediately, if straight people can and gay people should be able to, I would love to be able to see gay men donate immediately in the same way that straight men are able to, but I am aware that it can take up to three months for this virus to show up and that this virus is still seen as an issue. Which means while I don't like it I'm willing to accept that they might have to be a three month stand down period for those who are not in a monogamous relationship. [00:21:06] You mentioned earlier just about being in the in the aleut levels and COVID-19. Are you aware of any policy around people donating that have tested positive for COVID-19? [00:21:21] None that I'm aware of, but I imagine it comes down to the under the exact same regulation, any virus is included under So, if you are known to have called the flow, anything else, then you are unable to donate blood at that time. So imagine I can't see why COVID-19 would be any different. [00:21:39] Today is the day where we might learn with a we go down to a lower level one here in New Zealand for COVID-19. And I'm just wondering, finally, are you able to describe for people in the future walks going through these first months of COVID-19 hearing? New Zealand has been like, [00:22:02] okay, so for people in the future we have a politician here in New Zealand, his name is Winston paytas. And he described it as a prolonged holiday for all of the people in New Zealand. He is also full of crap. It has been stressful. It's been confusing being told one day that we might be closing the country. Then two days later being told we're closing the entire country. Everyone go home has been a stressful period. The biggest problem with it has been, we didn't know when it would end. We didn't know entirely what was happening. And it's not because the government weren't sharing the information. They were giving us as much as they could. They didn't know themselves. And that's what made it scary. is seeing these people who are leading us who are taking us through this whole thing, who also weren't 100% sure when it would end as well. It's been an unusual, weird time. It's been stressful and honestly, I'm looking forward to Whatever the world looks like on the other side of this, because while it's been bad in many ways, we've seen a lot of positive things come out of it, improvements to the environment, the way that people behave towards each other has changed the way businesses treat people has changed. The way the whole world looks, is going to be completely different in a year's time from what it was three months ago. [00:23:25] I think one thing for me was that really highlighted and has highlighted the inequalities in New Zealand but you know, for a lot of the things in terms of say things like poverty, it has really brought those to the fore. Where is prior to this, you know, they might have been swept under the carpet or we look, [00:23:45] I have a few friends who have been essentially harmless for the past couple of years living from couch to couch, staying with people during the COVID locked down. It's been an interesting time because they don't have that freedom wherever they were. On the day that quarantine was enforced with where they had to stay for the next two months. And for them, it's been stressful because previously, they had that freedom to move between friends to know that they weren't going to get underfoot to know that they were among people who cared for them, but also weren't encroaching on those people's personal space. And watching them go through this has been upsetting to say the least. And as much as I would love to be able to help during level four, we weren't allowed to leave where we were. And that made it difficult not being able to be the guy who normally would who would just go out and give them a couch or give them a place to stay or maybe even just take them a coffee, whatever my friends needed. It's been an interesting time. [00:24:51] Later this year, we've got the general election and you're standing this year in Ramadan. Are you how do you think COVID will change you as a politician. [00:25:10] It's an interesting question because going into the start of this year talking about whether or not I'd be standing for parliament was I was a completely different person. I was a lot more optimistic about the future. And then COVID changed my outlook on a number of things. I'm still optimistic and I'm optimistic in a different way. But the view of the poverty that we have seen that's come out as a result of COVID and also the discrimination that has existed during it as well. So as well as being queer, I'm also moldy and watching what my community both in the South Island and up in Taranaki and in Northland have been going through recently in the media has been eye opening to see that the way that New Zealand views how people like may look The lives as close to the traditional values as they can and how New Zealand is still a view that is different. In 2020, we're taught that New Zealand is a liberal, exciting and open, inviting inclusive society and means something like this happens. People are at home. all they're doing is watching the news. And they start to change. And it's been a strange time. A couple of weeks ago with the situation that happened in the United States, which was a African American who was killed by a police officer during a routine erased, that wasn't exactly routine, and did not need to happen. Another sense of depth. There have been protests all over New Zealand protesting for inequality to change within the United States. And I've been to one of those rallies. And I did wonder why there are so many people out there protesting inequality in America. America, and yet inequality on a racial basis and a sexuality basis still exist here in New Zealand. And it makes me think, and it's changed the way I view my very liberal bubble here in Wellington.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.