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The FDA's Blood Donation Ban: No Adult Entertainers Allowed

Originated in the late 1970s to prevent HIV, Hepatitis and Syphilis contamination of the nation's blood supply, a ban is still intact, though usually considered relative only to “men who have had sex with men” or "MSM". However, there is also selective prohibition with respect to anyone engaging in sexual exchange, including for 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 suggested I, "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 candidate as 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, erotic labor has also dramatically changed over the last thirty years, with entertainers from all aspects of the industry some of the most consistently screened adults in the nation. In California, for example, adult 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 2003-2005 “Rapid HIV” Report" released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Walk-In Rapid HIV testing centers are easily accessible in many cosmopolitan and urban environments. Unlike the stereotype of the Valley of the Dolls hooker, entertainers who are honest about their affiliation, and who view it as a temporary or full time career, often engage in a high amount of safe sex protocol, along with regular or semi 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 adult performers.

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. September 2013, 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 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 you, 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. After all, do you view yourself as a potential high risk candidate for the transfer of HIV, Hepatitis, or Syphilis?

Interested in learning more? Check with your local Red Cross for the basics of blood donation.

For information specifically on screening assays, the FDA offers a complete chart of infectious agents.

Re/Print. The FDA's Blood Donation Ban: No Adult Entertainers Allowed. Originally posted on SWOP Philly blog and Slixa Under Cover. SBB’s M. Dante writing as The Lady Dahlia Black. Industry mentor and wordsmith passionate about mindful sexual practice, traditional BDSM, hands on healing modalities, sex work safety, and community allied efforts to reduce stigma and violence.

SP 2022 BREAKING NEWS: Canadian Blood Service seeks to scrap lifetime ban on sex workers donating blood “The ban, introduced 45 years ago, is set to be replaced by a one-year "deferral" after paid sex work.” Did you know? In Canada, If you have traded sex for money or drugs *since 1977* there is an *indefinite deferral” from donating blood. Triple-X has been agitating about Canada’s blood donation ban on sex workers for two years now. Today is a small but important victory! See our interview in: “B.C. sex workers’ group confronts stigma around STDs,” The Georgia Straight, July 21st, 2020 “I sort of feel that we can’t really advertise that our members are providing fully safe services when the Public Health Agency of our country is saying that we’re more likely to have STDs than anyone else,” Sorfleet said. “Which really means we’re more likely to transmit STDs.…It is a stigma.” ~ Andrew Sorfleet, Triple-X Workers’ Solidarity of B.C. #EndTheBloodBan

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