Update on the selective  prohibition of blood donation with respect to anyone who has sex in exchange for money, drugs or other barter since 1977. My  BLOOD BAN article  originally appeared on Slixa Under Cover 2013, and was revised for SWOP-USA / SWOP-Philly 2015. I am posting it again here in case younger or new sex workers are unaware of the: SEX WORK BLOOD DONATION BAN originally installed to prevent HIV, Hepatitis or Syphilis contamination, the vernacular is still intact, though usually considered relative only to “men who have had sex with men” (MSM). However, there is also selective prohibition with respect to anyone who has sex in exchange for money, drugs or other barter —- since 1977. This is to filter out intravenous drug users, and other high risk candidates who potentially carry communicable disease.  Is that you?

I wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them about these restrictions. They replied, “To answer your question specifically, “Men and women who have engaged in sex for money or drugs since 1977 should not donate blood or blood components to be used for transfusion or further manufacturing.” Refer to the Memorandum to All Registered Blood Establishments dated April 23, 1992, titled “Revised Recommendations for the Prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Transmission by Blood and Blood Products.” The recommendations in that memorandum continue to reflect FDA’s current thinking. FDA’s recommendations do not further define the term “sex” as it relates to potential blood donors. Blood establishments are required to develop and follow standard operating procedures with respect to donor deferral. Ultimately, the medical director at the blood establishment is responsible for determining donor eligibility; however the term is typically interpreted as any form of sexual contact. ”

This is very ambiguous. It almost seems as though the medical director at each donor facility is able to determine who may donate blood, except that is not exactly true. Anyone who is considered to be a potential carrier of the HIV virus, Hepatitis or Syphilis is prohibited from donation.

The problem here is that just as gay marriage has changed the dynamic of sexual stereotypes and lifestyles, adult entertainment and erotic labor has also dramatically changed over the last thirty years, with sex workers from all aspects of the industry some of the most consistently screened adults. In California, film models must carry a clearance card verifying they’ve been tested every 28-30 days, and are free of communicable diseases.

Websites such as The Sexual Health Network or Just Get Tested offer fast, easy STI testing via the internet for those who don’t have open access to clinics, such as Philadelphia’s Washington West Project in affiliation with the Mazzoni Center, where every three months oral and anal swabbing, along with urine and blood tests are available anonymously, or with full disclosure. Since the 2003-5 “Rapid HIV” Report” released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Walk-In Rapid HIV testing centers and mobile units are easily accessible in many cosmopolitan and urban environments. Philadelphia’s Kensington area  – for example – has Prevention Point. 

Unlike the stereotype of the heroin shooting, street walking pimped out hooker, sex workers who are honest about their sex work, and view it as a temporary or full time career, often engage in a form of safe sex protocol, along with regular testing.

According to HIV Insight, a research and outreach project of the University of California in San Francisco, approximately, “3 million teenagers acquire an STD every year in the United States” with near “25% of all young people infected by any STD by age 21.” Obviously, if these are adolescent statistics any potential donor may be experimenting with an unsafe sexual or lifestyle practice, not just those defined as MSM or women having sex in exchange for money, drugs or other bartered goods.

The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) regulates the collection of blood and blood components used for transfusion. CBER works closely with aspects of the Public Health Service (PHS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be sure the nation’s blood and tissue supply is free of infectious agents. The guidelines issued by the FDA are observed by the Red Cross, independent hospitals, and other donor sites.

Despite efforts to lift the ban on MSM donations, the prohibition remains in effect. In September, Fox News and the Associated Press (AP) reported that, “more than 80 members of Congress wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services, criticizing the lifetime ban as an outdated measure that perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes about gay men”.

Wikipedia offers a clear chart of the global view on the MSM blood donation ban, showing Canada has modified its MSM protocol to a five year deferral, and one year if you – as a female – have sex with someone engaging in MSM activities. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, Sweden, and the UK all are reported to have one year deferrals.
So if you are considering donating blood, be aware of the potential for decline if you are candid about engaging in erotic labor services, regardless of what protocol and screening you practice. Also, keep in mind, many states request a one year deferral if you have had ear piercings, body piercings, or tattoo work, and also in some states, even if you have had acupuncture treatment.

The blood donation ban may seem an issue unrelated to the adult entertainment industry, though just as activism for the right of gay men to donate their blood has been ongoing, it is yet another area where the industry of erotic labor services may also choose to be actively aware.

Updates on this status welcome. M – 2017

Bloody Graffiti Photo: M Dante PHL 2013