When the blood bank arrived in town, I said I would attend with my friend to support them, as they disliked needles but this was something they wanted to do. We sat in the waiting pews and he filled out the questionnaire asking about their lifestyle choices. During this time I quickly noticed the following questions come up:
“Have you paid for sex within the last 12 months?”
“Have you slept with someone who has been paid for sex?”
With my friend being in a relationship with an ex-escort, they ticked yes to sleeping with someone who had been paid for sex. Once they handed their form in, they were shortly called through to the screening area, which entailed going through the questions they said yes and no to. The nurse overseeing the assessment finally informed my friend that they can’t give blood if they date someone who had been paid for sex in the past. This also applied if the person hadn’t been an active sex worker for over 12 months, were STI free, and they were in a monogamous relationship together. However, my friend was informed, that he could give blood if he ever broke-up with their partner and waited 12 months. To me, this didn’t make sense, that an ex-sex worker and their partner could never give blood. But what made even less sense, was that my friend could blood again if the relationship ended and they waited 12 months, but the ex-sex worker couldn’t give blood even after waiting 12 months between their last paid sexual encounter.
I contacted ‘Give Blood NHS UK’, and they rang me back a few days later, saying the phone call would answer medically why ex-sex workers were penalised so much when it came to donating blood.
During the conversation, the woman I spoke with kept on bringing up ‘given drugs for sex’, when I mentioned those who had been paid for sex. Apparently ‘Give Blood’ feel there is a strong link to sex workers and drug use. Personally from my experience as a sex worker (and one who has been paid for sex in the past), and a sex educator who has spoken with many sex workers, this is a strong misconception. While I can’t say that no sex worker accepts drugs for sex, I know that many of them would prefer to be paid so they can support an everyday living rather than take alternatives.
Apparently the risk of them being drug users, and people who sleep around, is too high that even when they choose to change their career from sex work, that ‘Give Blood’ feels that this risk behaviour could easily reoccur and isn’t worth the risk with blood donations. Even when a sex worker has always practice safe protected sex, and doesn’t have multiple partners after stopping sex work, they still can’t give blood. However, an everyday person who goes clubbing and meets someone for a one night stand can give blood. Again, this doesn’t make sense, particularly when ‘Give Blood’ tests all blood for STIs prior to using it. But they are only really concerned about those who are paid for sex, as apparently their behaviour is seen as taboo and dangerous, forever.
I had a selection of other interesting questions to ask them. I felt it was worth bringing up other forms of paid sex careers, such as porn stars. Now days, it’s possible to start your own porn career in the comfort of your bed room with your partner. Simply you just need a camera, and your partner, and away you go. No other outsiders are involved. I informed them that the paid for sex question should apply for those within these situations too and that the questions they were asking weren’t so black and white. They replied that if they are in a monogamous relationship that it should be ok but they would have to talk through this during the screening. However they still answered in a way to suggest that they felt that anyone being paid for sex would sleep around.
The person I spoke with also kept on saying that its person’s choice if they are paid for sex or pay for sex and that they have to live with it. I mentioned that while many sex workers choose their career, there are some people who are still forced into sex work. The lady just said that they still have to live with their choice, almost as if she couldn’t understand that someone could be forced into paid sex. So even trafficked sex workers can’t give blood, even after 12 months after their last encounter, and are STI free, because apparently it was their choice and they show risky behaviour.
During the conversation I informed them that really they need to reassess what they class as sex, as many people see sex differently. I also brought to their attention about certain high-risk kink practices which increase the risk of STIs, such as blood play, and asked why they don’t ask a bit more about sexual lifestyle choices when processing. Basically they feel it would be too complicated. They feel it’s easier to have a few lump categories where they ask about high risk behaviours (or what they class as high-risk), rather than asking more specific questions, such as ‘do you practice safe sex?’. They are presuming that sex workers and ex-sex workers don’t practice safe sex just because they are paid, whereas they presume everyday people who do not pay for sex and aren’t paid to have sex, have safe sex.
I finally asked about ex-sex workers giving blood to family members who needed an emergency blood transplant. But apparently, even if there was a shortage of blood in the bank, that they wouldn’t be able to give blood to a relative. But be reassured, ‘Give Blood’ informed me that they would find the ‘best’ blood for them. So as someone who has been paid for sex in the past, even though I haven’t had sex with a client for over 12 months and have regular STI checks, I can’t donate blood to my children.