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Lifeline of Ohio LGBTQ+ outreach: Increasing donor registrations

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When Pride lives on and leaves a lasting legacy

Lifeline of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ outreach leads to increase in donor registrations

Photo provided by Lifeline of Ohio: Lifeline of Ohio participating in Columbus Pride

Lifeline of Ohio participating in Columbus Pride Photo provided by Lifeline of Ohio

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When Lifeline of Ohio participated in their first Columbus Pride event in 2015, about 15 volunteers and staff marched in the parade. When the team returned in 2017, they hosted a booth for the entire day and staff and volunteers marched in the parade wearing items with the slogan “My Pride Lives On” to spread the Donate Life message.

This year, on June 15, around 35 people from the Columbus-based OPO will walk in the parade and another 20 will be on hand to help register organ donors.

Lifeline of Ohio’s presence at Columbus Pride—one of the nation’s largest Pride events begun in 1981 and attracting hundreds of thousands of supporters—resulted in 75 new organ donors last year.

Jessica Petersen, Media and Public Relations Coordinator for Lifeline of Ohio, says “It’s a giving community so they are excited to be able to give in this way. And it’s been an awesome experience for our staff.”

Capturing the community where they are means capturing opportunities to educate about who is eligible to donate. Counter to what some people may believe, members of the LGBTQ+ community are not prevented from donating organs. Lifeline of Ohio has been working on LGBTQ+ outreach to help break any misconceptions surrounding LGBTQ+ donation. The messages they share include:

  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people can donate organs
  • While some members of the community may not be able to donate blood or tissue, there are no limitations for organ donation*
  • Thanks to the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, people living with HIV can donate organs to other people on the transplant list who are also living with HIV

What can other OPOs do to connect with the LGBTQ+ community?

Lifeline of Ohio has an LGBTQ+ community committee to help develop outreach opportunities. It’s made up of staff members, community members and volunteers, along with key stakeholders such as Equality Ohio.

“This is a really important initiative” says Lauren Stevens, Manager of Community Outreach at Lifeline of Ohio. “We’re serving individuals we might not have connected with previously. It’s an opportunity for us to build a rapport and show them that we care—that we want them to know that their pride can live on. That they can make a difference.”

This spring, Lifeline of Ohio participated for the first time in AIDS Walk Ohio through a partnership with Equitas, a regional not-for-profit healthcare system that serves those community members at risk of or affected by HIV.

Stevens and Petersen both believe that connecting with colleagues to get best practices and ideas is a great way to move forward. Says Stevens, “We would love nothing more than for every OPO to connect with us and our colleagues to see what is being done in the LGBTQ+ community so we can all make a difference together.”

The 2019 Columbus Pride Parade is June 15. Read more about Columbus Pride.

Read more about the first three years of the HOPE Act

*The FDA oversees tissue and blood donation, and has regulations in place that limit what can be donated by gay men.

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