Sex Workers Can Now Donate Blood in England and Scotland!

July 25, 2017

Nurse on a hospital ward

In a piece of rather fascinating news which was released over the weekend, blood donation rules for sex workers and gay men in England and Scotland have been relaxed, making it easier for them to give blood.

Men who have sex with men can now give blood three months after their last sexual activity instead of 12.

The same goes for sex workers, who were previously barred from donating. They are now subject to the same three month period as gay men.

New Tests

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs – which advises UK health departments recommended a change in the rules after finding that new screening procedures were thorough enough to make sure that the blood supply was safe.

All blood that is donated in the UK undergoes a mandatory test for Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, plus a couple of other viruses. Traditionally, both the gay community and sex workers were seen as prime candidates for such things.

Scientists agree that three months is a long enough window for a virus or infection to appear and be picked up in the blood.

Prof James Neuberger, from the committee, said: “Technologies to pick up the presence of the virus have greatly improved, so we can now pick up viruses at a much earlier stage in the infection, and therefore it’s much easier to tell if a blood donor has the virus.”

The rule changes will come into action in Scotland in November, and in early 2018 in England.

The following groups will see changes:

1) Men who have sex with other men

2) People who have sex with high-risk partners – for example, those who have been in areas where HIV is common

3) Commercial sex workers.

Still, all these people will have to not have had sex for three months before donating.

A Victory For Science

Alex Phillips, blood donations policy lead at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the changes were a “victory for science over stigmatising assumptions”, adding: “The evidence suggests three months is the right amount of time.”

She told BBC One’s Breakfast that the lifetime donation ban for sex workers was based on “preconceptions rather than evidence”.

In other words, they powers that be previously thought that sex workers were likely to be riddled with disease. As everyone here knows, sex workers are more likely use practice safe sex rather than the normal people you meet on a night out. Thankfully the powers that be are now catching up with that truth.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of National Aids Trust, said the new rules were a “huge advance” for gay and bisexual men – who can now donate three months from their last sexual activity.

Ms Gold said: “We are also delighted that NHS Blood and Transplant have said they will now investigate how possible it is for some gay men, depending on degree of risk, to donate without even the three-month deferral.”

A Great Move

I am really glad things have started to change. If we can now screen these diseases better, then the changes are perfect.

Giving blood is a wonderful gift for those who need it. I know I do it on a semi-regular basis. The more people who can do it the better.

So if you are a sex worker on a sabbatical, feel free to give blood. That goes for gay people too. Someone out there will be very grateful.

Martin Ward
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