17 Jul Australian Red Cross Blood Service donation ad with two men…
A social media post promoting a Red Cross blood donation campaign featuring two men in Christmas jumpers has been blasted by LGBT social media users who can’t give blood, but the service says it was not its intention to depict a same-sex couple.
- The ad depicts two men in Christmas jumpers and is intended to promote blood donation
- Some gay Facebook users say it appears to target them even though they cannot legally donate
- The Red Cross Blood Service has defended the post
The Facebook ad has attracted more than 200 comments, many of which questioned the post’s imagery at a time when gay men were still excluded from donating blood.
The ad — intended to boost blood donation during winter — was posted on Monday morning and shows two men who are former Red Cross employees.
“Whether or not you’re celebrating Christmas in July, you can give a lifesaving gift any time, because the need for blood doesn’t take a break,” the promotional post stated.
However, some LGBT community members have interpreted the image as a same-sex couple.
“It seems pretty clearly targeted towards gay people, or at least it could be read as two gay men,” said Facebook user and former blood donor Xavier O’Shannessy.
“To be targeting people that you also actively exclude on really outdated scientific data is really unacceptable.”
Homosexual men were banned from donating blood in Australia following the HIV and AIDS crisis that shook the world in the 1980s.
Today, men must wait one year after having sex with another man — including oral sex and anal intercourse with or without a condom — to be eligible to donate.
The blood service said the 12-month deferral period was gradually introduced, starting with South Australia in 1996 and ending with New South Wales in 2000.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has previously knocked back a move by the Red Cross to cut the deferral period to six months, following a 2012 review of the rule.
Mr O’Shannessy said the ad was an insensitive reminder of that policy.
“It’s just a reminder that my blood is somehow dirty to them … the reason why I say it’s homophobic is because it’s assumed my identity is the risk, not my behaviour,” he said.
Post could have been blocked from feeds
Another user, Andy Jones, said he did not think the post should be altered or deleted — but suggested it should have been blocked from appearing in the Facebook feeds of gay men.
“I understand why they need to get more blood,” he said.
“When I see it and they say they need blood and I can’t give blood, it makes me upset.
“I assume it’s a targeted ad and came up on my profile and find it a little upsetting.”
Marcus Willis, founder of social media agency Eight Clients, said Facebook made it possible to prevent users from seeing material they might regard as offensive or irrelevant.
He said companies often created exclusion lists based on a user’s online habits.
“If you’ve ever visited a URL or domain like the RSPCA or vegan groups … [you] would be excluded from an advertisement about horse racing,” he said.
“That could’ve been possible here as well.
“I don’t know if having a couple, who could be perceived as being a gay couple, is ever a good idea when promoting a campaign like this.”
The Red Cross Blood Service defended the post and said it “was sponsored to reach people in areas where the Blood Service has donor centres”.
“We understand people are frustrated with this blood donation rule and we are pleased to be reviewing it again,” a spokesperson said.
“We welcome and encourage open discussion on our Facebook page and the commentary on this post has been a mix of our usual eligibility questions and feedback, rather than about the image of two men, who are former employees.”
The spokesperson said the post would not be deleted.
“Deleting it would result in the loss of more than 200 valid comments and questions around our deferrals and eligibility criteria,” it said.
“The number of comments on the post is not unusual, and as always, we have been responding to people’s questions and comments.”