For these young people in privileged parts of the world, the pandemic was an opportunity

Health

Yahoo News 11 October, 2021 - 04:00am

South Korea was confronting an emerging second wave of COVID-19 cases. An acquaintance of his father's had pivoted his cosmetics factory to churn out face masks that were suddenly in huge demand. The man asked Jung, 23, who had recently quit his semiconductor factory job to go back to school, to set up an online direct-to-consumer sales operation.

Jung already had a tidy sum in the stock market and was collecting rent on an apartment unit he owned while living in the factory dorms or with his parents. Now, in just a month, the new mask business had racked up more than 400 million won in sales — about $350,000.

"Am I going to be rich?" he thought.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economies and gutted jobs across the developed and developing world. The loss of economic opportunities has hit young people, more likely to be employed in precarious sectors and in tenuous positions with fewer years' experience, far worse than older adults in stable jobs.

But the devastation hasn't hit evenly. Although the unprecedented shutdown and economic disruptions have plunged much of the world's poor youth into direr straits, for young people in privileged regions, the cataclysmic changes wrought by the pandemic have offered a rare chance for a jump-start or boost in entrepreneurship, investment and creativity. Much like COVID-19 vaccines — with rich nations already offering booster shots while poor ones have yet to provide most of their citizens a first shot — wealth and opportunity have never more clearly seemed a matter of geographic lottery.

The very upper crust of the world's wealthy have dramatically increased their fortunes while much of the globe suffered. Many have directly profited from the crisis, reaping profits in pharmaceuticals, testing and vaccines. Services such as Amazon, food delivery and streaming entertainment companies such as Netflix have seen an unprecedented surge in demand.

Combined with governments pumping money toward economic recovery, those trends have made the richest even richer. The ranks of the "ultra high net worth" individuals with more than $50 million to their name has increased by 24%, the highest increase in nearly two decades, according to this year's Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse. Billionaires have seen their wealth balloon by 69%, according to Oxfam.

In societies in East Asia, Europe or the U.S. with better safety nets, more robust fiscal policies and stronger employment protections, the young have suffered far less, and even managed to better their fortunes. Rich nations spent about $850 per capita on pandemic social protections, and low-income countries spent just $4, according to the World Bank.

"The youth that are able to take advantage of what's happened or able to get a foothold in that economic recovery tend to be those who are educated, more likely to adapt, in occupations that allow for telework," said Sher Verick, an economist at the International Labor Organization who is head of the group's employment strategies unit. "In countries where there's poor access to internet, weak infrastructure, it's that much harder to take advantage."

The disparate fortunes emerging from the pandemic foreshadow what's likely to be, for today's young adults, a lifetime defined by cascading crises in which prosperity may ebb and flow. With climate change, increasing migration, the widening reach of artificial intelligence and disruptions from cryptocurrencies, NFTs or whatever the next technological upheaval may be, wealth and work promise to be far more complex and tricky to navigate than for previous generations. The pandemic was their first crucible; it won't be their last in an age when the young may often have to reinvent themselves.

Such anxieties over the future resonate in "Squid Game" — a South Korean TV series that has become a Netflix sensation in its Darwinian exploration of wealth gaps and struggles to survive even in a well-to-do nation. The show's dystopian aura pits financially strapped characters against one another in a deadly competition — guns, a scary doll and tug-of-war over an abyss — to win millions of dollars. It speaks to accelerating inequalities and a realigning of the economic order as the young face narrowing chances of finding good-paying jobs and affordable homes, much less riches.

Jung has dreamed of becoming rich — in his words, "to make enough money to be disillusioned by capitalism" — ever since his family faced financial collapse.

When he was 13, his father's cosmetics business went bust. For a year, he lived alone in an apartment where past-due rent snowballed as his parents moved around dodging debt collectors. Because of his family's predicament, he gave up on college early, choosing to attend a specialized job-training high school. At 18, he started working at a Samsung semiconductor factory, pulling swing shifts in head-to-toe cleanroom suits that would leave him drenched in sweat at the end of the workday.

The $60,000 or so in starting salary was an enviable sum, nearly double the average annual salary for South Korea. But he wasn't satisfied with just drawing an income; he wanted to develop other streams of cash flow to multiply his wealth. He started an online drop shipping business importing and selling women's clothing and sex toys from China, bringing in a couple of thousand a month. He began growing his investments in the stock market.

At the beginning of 2020, though, Jung wanted to take a breather. He quit his job, wound down his online business and decided to go back to school.

Then the pandemic hit, and the capitalist ambitions he was planning to put on hold were sent into hyperdrive.

When the economic uncertainties around the pandemic led to a steep market crash early last year, then quickly began recovering just as sharply, young adults in South Korea flocked to retail investing in unprecedented numbers. No longer seeing a solid future or growth in traditional employment the way their parents did, many began taking out massive loans to go all in on the stock market. "Scrape together everything, including your soul," became the credo for many young investors.

Jung took out 40 million Korean won, about $35,000, in loans to add to his stock market investments.

Around the same time, he launched the online mask sales business. South Korea saw a run on masks in the first months of the pandemic, to a degree where the government rationed sales to two per person per week. Jung began selling them about the time the country's second wave hit. Sales were highest that first month and settled at a lower level, but they became a steady stream of income, earning him several thousand dollars each month with minimal effort.

Since the pandemic, Jung estimated, his net worth has grown by about 50%, even though he hasn't been working. Some of his friends raked in much more — by investing in bitcoin or real estate, with far more dramatic price fluctuations, he said. A couple of friends his age who went all in on the real estate market are now worth between a million or two, he said.

"I think there's always opportunity in change," he said. "The rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, it's definitely worse for those of us now in their 20s and 30s than the generation before us."

The gap opened up by the pandemic may end up being impossible to bridge over their lifetimes, he said, comparing his lot with that of his peers who chose to go to college, and didn't have the seed capital to take advantage of the stock market rally.

"The gulf is incredibly wide," he said. "I'm not sure an opportunity like this will ever come again."

While Jung's fortunes were being buoyed by the market crash and the mask frenzy, the global run on toilet paper was shaping up to be a godsend for Oliver Elsoud's young business in Germany.

The 37-year-old had quit his day job in 2016 and invested his savings, about 60,000 euros, into a startup making a product that he and his partner called "Happy Po" — "Happy Rear End."

The brightly colored 11-inch-tall squeeze bottle shoots up a stream of water. The invention was born when Elsoud experienced the benefits of using water rather than toilet paper while traveling the Middle East and Asia for a German tool and electrical supplies company. It seemed to be a far more hygienic, convenient and eco-friendly alternative to toilet paper, and going back to wiping each time he returned home felt like regressing to the dark ages.

Elsoud's company slowly gained traction after a publicity boost from a German version of the investment pitch reality TV show "Shark Tank" — called "Lion's Den" — in 2017. But bathroom habits, he found, die hard. Germans are heavy toilet paper consumers, using more per capita than most developed nations, second only to the U.S., using about 33 pounds per capita per year.

Last year, as countries began shutting down after the onset of the pandemic, toilet paper sold out quickly in panic buying. The makers of "Happy Po" — also marketed as "bum shower" — were poised to step in to offer an alternative. Sales of the device quickly rose tenfold within a few short weeks, to more than 100,000 devices sold per month.

“The coronavirus took us to the next level,” Elsoud said. “Corona changed everything for us. Everything took off overnight. Demand went through the roof. We touched the era’s nerve."

This February, a little over four years after he launched his start-up, he sold the company for “several million euros” to a larger firm.

Elsoud doesn't think of himself as a "Krisengewinnler" — German for "crisis profiteer" — but simply thinks he was ready when the stars aligned and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opened up.

"Things certainly went our way. Sure, we were lucky, but so were other online businesses," he said. "You just can’t plan something like that happening. It’s all about the timing.”

He grew up in a solidly middle-class household of Palestinian immigrants in southwest Germany. His father worked for the German carmaker Daimler-Benz, affording the family the comfort and security of the country's stalwart auto industry. Elsoud started out working for a German tool and electrical supplies company but became enticed by the promise of Friedrichshain, the once-gritty neighborhood of Berlin that has become a hotbed of innovative start-ups.

He remains at the company after the sale as senior brand manager. Even beyond the pandemic, he feels optimistic that the business will continue to burgeon — especially in the toilet-paper-loving U.S., where he sees a broad horizon for growth, especially among environmentally conscious consumers.

“There are so many arses out there so the potential is enormous,” he said. “We haven’t come close to seeing the full potential tapped yet.”

If Elsoud was well-positioned to take advantage of the run on toilet paper, for Daniel Thrasher in Los Angeles, it was people's confinement to their homes in the early days of the pandemic that proved a boon.

In early 2020, it had been a year since the actor quit his day job working at a coffee shop on La Brea Avenue to focus full time on his YouTube channel, featuring comedic sketches he writes and performs, often accompanied by his piano compositions. He'd grown his channel to a million subscribers, and secured sponsorships that ensured he'd be able to make a steady income.

Before the pandemic, he'd been planning a move to a quiet town house near the L.A. River to isolate himself and focus on his comedy. The stay-at-home order that went into effect in March 2020 reinforced that isolation and allowed the then-27-year-old to have some of the most creative months of his life. He improvised nonstop and introduced a number of new characters to his videos, including a singing Satan, a songwriting cat and personified procrastination.

At the same time, as people were being forced to spend much of their time indoors and looking for distractions, his subscribers nearly tripled to 2.7 million. His income jumped by a similar proportion. Other online content creators he spoke to saw similar increases. In 2020, 81% of Americans said they use YouTube, up from 73% in 2019, according to Pew Research Center. Among Thrasher's contemporaries, young adults aged 18 to 29, 95% said they use the service.

His sponsors, who he worried would be scaling back, seemed even more eager to renew their contracts with him at higher rates.

"There was more budgeting redirected toward the internet," he said. "The pandemic reinforced for everyone that the internet is where you want to spend your marketing dollars. They were scrambling to find creators to give these funds to."

It was since COVID-19 that the wiry and moppy-haired performer with a cheeky grin started being recognized on the street once or twice a week. He went from a one-person operation to a four-person team, hiring creative assistants and an editor to help run his channel. In July, he bought a $2.1-million Studio City home; this year, he anticipates he'll make more than a million for the first time, he said.

Because his parents are both healthcare workers, risking their own lives to save others during the pandemic, he struggled emotionally when he started earning more than them, he said.

He also knows the landscape of his industry is fickle. The pandemic minted a host of TikTok stars making short videos in their bedrooms. When the stay-at-home orders lifted earlier this year and vaccines started becoming more widely available, Thrasher, along with other YouTubers, saw their numbers slide.

"There's a lot more competition.... there's an ocean of people arriving on YouTube," he said. "They're coming to take over. I'm working as if I'm waiting for someone to take me down."

Jung, now 24, doesn't know how rich he'll be in the future. But he's mapping it out. He moved to Pleasant Hill in California in August to continue college studies he'd started online. He bought a used Nissan Altima, and is paying for his education and living expenses through his mask sales income.

He's studying business administration, building on his experiences having run small sales operations and investing. He wants to work in consulting before eventually running his own businesses — he's not sure in what but knows he doesn't want to be working for anyone else.

In the U.S., he has also encountered friends with a different degree of wealth. Two fellow students he met in his first weeks came from families with private jets. The pandemic, he said, had the effect of teaching him just how quickly the gulf between haves and have-nots is widening.

"I'm not sure I really realized before, money makes money," he said. "I think I understand capitalism a little better now."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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England to remove another 'discriminatory' barrier to blood donation

CNN 12 October, 2021 - 11:40am

Updated 7:21 PM ET, Sun October 10, 2021

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Removing ‘demotivating’ blood donation question ‘won’t reduce safety’

Evening Standard 11 October, 2021 - 05:01am

‘I know that this has been demotivating for many Black donors, and that it’s stopped many more from coming forward’

s the first Health and Social Care Secretary from an ethnic minority, I feel a deep responsibility that our NHS should be open to everyone, and that we have a moral duty to tackle the disparities that exist in our nation.

This includes the opportunity to give blood, a selfless act which is a lifeline to so many people, either in an emergency or as part of long-term treatments.

The need for donors is as urgent as it’s ever been. To meet this need, we need 1.6 million pints of blood every year in England, which means 200,000 new donors every year.

Although it’s important that we have strong standards to make sure donated blood is safe, the current blanket rules on donation are outdated, and have created unnecessary barriers for people in some communities who want to help others.

As it stands, if a donor reports sexual activity with a partner who may have ever been sexually active in an area where HIV is endemic, including most of sub-Saharan Africa, they’re told to come back in three months after the last sexual contact with that partner.

I know that this has been demotivating for many Black donors, and that it’s stopped many more from coming forward.

So, from the end of this year, we’re changing the questionnaire for donors to remove the question about donors’ partners sexual activity in these areas.

This is part of our shift towards a fairer and more empathetic system, looking at individual risk, rather than blanket restrictions.

To be clear, the safety of those donating and those receiving blood and blood products remains the government’s highest priority.

It builds on years of work by the FAIR steering group, who have been looking at how we can use a more evidence-based approach. And both the FAIR steering group, and the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) agreed the question can safely be removed from the donor safety check.

And the donor form will still retain questions to ensure high risk behaviours are picked up, and those potential donors are deferred.

So, removing this question will not compromise the safety of blood supply in the UK.

In the UK, all donations are tested for a multitude of possible infections and there are robust monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure safety of donors and recipients. It is estimated that the risk of an HIV infectious donation not being detected is almost non-existent, corresponding to one in 23 million.

People who are Black African, Black Caribbean and of Black mixed ethnicity are more likely to have the rare blood sub-group, such as Ro, that many Black sickle cell patients need. This change will provide more opportunities for people to donate to meet the ongoing need for rarer blood types and help improve and save lives in the UK.

In June, we made another landmark change by lifting the blanket deferral for men who’ve had sex with men in the last three months, and these further changes mean even more people can come forward. But I know that we need to go even further to make donating blood even more inclusive, and I’ll be looking at what other steps we can take to reduce unnecessary barriers, just as I’ll be looking at how we can address racial inequalities in healthcare across the board.

I’d urge everyone who’s able to donate to register. At the moment only 1.5 per cent of current donors are Black and we urgently need more donors from these communities, especially those with rarer blood types.

So please come forward if you’re eligible; you’ll make a difference and you might save someone’s life.

England to remove ‘discriminatory’ hurdle for blood donors

POLITICO Europe 11 October, 2021 - 03:45am

Question about sexual activity in sub-Saharan Africa to be removed from donation form.

The question — asking potential donors whether they recently had sex with a partner who may ever have been sexually active "in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS is very common" — was considered to predominantly affect and discriminate against Black communities, and MPs had campaigned to have it removed.

In the existing questionnaire, if someone answered "yes" to the question, they had to wait three months since their last sexual contact with that person to be able to donate blood. In effect, the question blocked some potential donors from ever being able to donate blood.

Other questions will remain on the donor form aimed at detecting individual, high-risk behaviors, including recent travel to countries where HIV is endemic. Javid said in a statement that the form will now be "focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals."

The NHS has said it needs more Black donors "because of a rise in demand for some rare blood types that are more common in people of Black heritage."

National AIDS Trust Chief Executive Deborah Gold said: "We are delighted that the secretary of state has confirmed this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from blood donor screening forms."

Scotland and Wales have already ditched the question from their blood donation forms. In June 2021 a similar hurdle for gay and bisexual men was removed in the U.K.

Greens, liberals and social democrats — potential coalition partners — are all in favor of decriminalizing cannabis to some extent.

The White House announced last week that it would spend $1 billion to increase access to at-home tests.

Lawmakers say delaying stay-at-home order ‘reflected a fatalism about the spread of COVID that should have been robustly challenged at the time.’

Democrats are ringing alarm bells and coming to the simplest of conclusions: It’s the pandemic, stupid.

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England to remove ‘discriminatory’ hurdle for blood donors

The Mirror 11 October, 2021 - 03:45am

Question about sexual activity in sub-Saharan Africa to be removed from donation form.

The question — asking potential donors whether they recently had sex with a partner who may ever have been sexually active "in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS is very common" — was considered to predominantly affect and discriminate against Black communities, and MPs had campaigned to have it removed.

In the existing questionnaire, if someone answered "yes" to the question, they had to wait three months since their last sexual contact with that person to be able to donate blood. In effect, the question blocked some potential donors from ever being able to donate blood.

Other questions will remain on the donor form aimed at detecting individual, high-risk behaviors, including recent travel to countries where HIV is endemic. Javid said in a statement that the form will now be "focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals."

The NHS has said it needs more Black donors "because of a rise in demand for some rare blood types that are more common in people of Black heritage."

National AIDS Trust Chief Executive Deborah Gold said: "We are delighted that the secretary of state has confirmed this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from blood donor screening forms."

Scotland and Wales have already ditched the question from their blood donation forms. In June 2021 a similar hurdle for gay and bisexual men was removed in the U.K.

Greens, liberals and social democrats — potential coalition partners — are all in favor of decriminalizing cannabis to some extent.

The White House announced last week that it would spend $1 billion to increase access to at-home tests.

Lawmakers say delaying stay-at-home order ‘reflected a fatalism about the spread of COVID that should have been robustly challenged at the time.’

Democrats are ringing alarm bells and coming to the simplest of conclusions: It’s the pandemic, stupid.

Forgot your password? Click here.

By logging in, you confirm acceptance of our POLITICO Privacy Policy.

Blood donation rules changed to attract more donors with rare subgroups

The Guardian 11 October, 2021 - 12:00am

MPs and activists have said the existing guidelines were discriminatory and have no scientific basis. Blood donation rules include a three-month restriction on donating for anyone in England who has a “partner who has, or you think may have, been sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/Aids is very common” and references “most countries in Africa”.

The question – part of the pre-donation safety check – means that many black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would remove the question after extensive government research. The change has been widely welcomed as removing a discriminatory barrier. People who are black or have mixed ethnicity are also more likely to have a rare blood subgroup that many black sickle-cell patients need, such as Ro.

Other questions do remain, although the government recently lifted the ban on gay men donating blood after a long campaign. People who have recently travelled to countries where HIV is endemic will still be asked to defer their donations.

Javid called it a “progressive step forward, focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals”, and reducing limitations for people to donate blood. This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives.”

Black people are 10 times more likely than white people to have the Ro and B positive blood types needed to treat the 15,000 people in the UK suffering from the blood disorder sickle cell.

The change was recommended by the for assessment of individualised risk (Fair) steering group, which includes experts in the UK blood services and LGBTQ+ charities.

Blood donations are tested for a multitude of possible infections, including HIV, and it is estimated that the risk of an HIV-infectious donation not being detected is one in 23m.

Su Brailsford, associate medical director at NHS Blood and Transplant and chair of Fair, said the UK had “one of the safest blood supplies in the world”.

“I’m pleased that the latest evidence-based advice on donor eligibility has been accepted in full, creating an even more equitable, better experience for all donors,” she said.

“Coming into effect by the end of 2021, we hope this change will also remove the unease long-felt by some donors about this – in particular, the black African community, whose needs we are working hard to listen to and better address, those of African heritage and their partners, who are all disproportionately affected.”

Chamut Kifetew, the health equalities lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said the question had long been a barrier to the recruitment of more donors from black communities. “Now we need to see the work done to address wider health inequalities faced by black people in the UK,” she said.

Blood donation rules changed to attract more donors with rare subgroups

Stylist Magazine 11 October, 2021 - 12:00am

MPs and activists have said the existing guidelines were discriminatory and have no scientific basis. Blood donation rules include a three-month restriction on donating for anyone in England who has a “partner who has, or you think may have, been sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/Aids is very common” and references “most countries in Africa”.

The question – part of the pre-donation safety check – means that many black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would remove the question after extensive government research. The change has been widely welcomed as removing a discriminatory barrier. People who are black or have mixed ethnicity are also more likely to have a rare blood subgroup that many black sickle-cell patients need, such as Ro.

Other questions do remain, although the government recently lifted the ban on gay men donating blood after a long campaign. People who have recently travelled to countries where HIV is endemic will still be asked to defer their donations.

Javid called it a “progressive step forward, focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals”, and reducing limitations for people to donate blood. This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives.”

Black people are 10 times more likely than white people to have the Ro and B positive blood types needed to treat the 15,000 people in the UK suffering from the blood disorder sickle cell.

The change was recommended by the for assessment of individualised risk (Fair) steering group, which includes experts in the UK blood services and LGBTQ+ charities.

Blood donations are tested for a multitude of possible infections, including HIV, and it is estimated that the risk of an HIV-infectious donation not being detected is one in 23m.

Su Brailsford, associate medical director at NHS Blood and Transplant and chair of Fair, said the UK had “one of the safest blood supplies in the world”.

“I’m pleased that the latest evidence-based advice on donor eligibility has been accepted in full, creating an even more equitable, better experience for all donors,” she said.

“Coming into effect by the end of 2021, we hope this change will also remove the unease long-felt by some donors about this – in particular, the black African community, whose needs we are working hard to listen to and better address, those of African heritage and their partners, who are all disproportionately affected.”

Chamut Kifetew, the health equalities lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said the question had long been a barrier to the recruitment of more donors from black communities. “Now we need to see the work done to address wider health inequalities faced by black people in the UK,” she said.

Blood donation rules changed to attract more donors with rare subgroups

The Independent 11 October, 2021 - 12:00am

MPs and activists have said the existing guidelines were discriminatory and have no scientific basis. Blood donation rules include a three-month restriction on donating for anyone in England who has a “partner who has, or you think may have, been sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/Aids is very common” and references “most countries in Africa”.

The question – part of the pre-donation safety check – means that many black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would remove the question after extensive government research. The change has been widely welcomed as removing a discriminatory barrier. People who are black or have mixed ethnicity are also more likely to have a rare blood subgroup that many black sickle-cell patients need, such as Ro.

Other questions do remain, although the government recently lifted the ban on gay men donating blood after a long campaign. People who have recently travelled to countries where HIV is endemic will still be asked to defer their donations.

Javid called it a “progressive step forward, focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals”, and reducing limitations for people to donate blood. This will make it easier for black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives.”

Black people are 10 times more likely than white people to have the Ro and B positive blood types needed to treat the 15,000 people in the UK suffering from the blood disorder sickle cell.

The change was recommended by the for assessment of individualised risk (Fair) steering group, which includes experts in the UK blood services and LGBTQ+ charities.

Blood donations are tested for a multitude of possible infections, including HIV, and it is estimated that the risk of an HIV-infectious donation not being detected is one in 23m.

Su Brailsford, associate medical director at NHS Blood and Transplant and chair of Fair, said the UK had “one of the safest blood supplies in the world”.

“I’m pleased that the latest evidence-based advice on donor eligibility has been accepted in full, creating an even more equitable, better experience for all donors,” she said.

“Coming into effect by the end of 2021, we hope this change will also remove the unease long-felt by some donors about this – in particular, the black African community, whose needs we are working hard to listen to and better address, those of African heritage and their partners, who are all disproportionately affected.”

Chamut Kifetew, the health equalities lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said the question had long been a barrier to the recruitment of more donors from black communities. “Now we need to see the work done to address wider health inequalities faced by black people in the UK,” she said.

Blood donation to be made more inclusive

GOV.UK 10 October, 2021 - 06:15pm

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A question on sexual activity of partners in areas where HIV is widespread will be removed from the donor safety check form.

A question on sexual activity of partners in areas where HIV is widespread, including Sub-Saharan Africa, will be removed from the donor safety check form

Change is based on recommendation following the latest scientific evidence

Changes will have no impact on the safety of blood donated in the UK and will allow more people to make life-saving donations

People who want to donate blood, particularly Black African donors, will be able to do so more easily from the end of 2021.

The government has today outlined plans to remove the question on sexual activity in Sub-Saharan Africa asked in the donor safety check.

Currently, prospective donors are asked if they have recently had sex with a partner who may ever have been sexually active in an area where HIV is endemic, which includes most of sub-Saharan Africa. If they have, the donor will be deferred for 3 months after the last sexual contact with that partner.

This can mean Black African donors and other potential donors in long-term relationships have been unable to donate blood.

People who are Black African, Black Caribbean and of Black mixed ethnicity are more likely to have the rare blood sub-group, such as Ro, that many Black sickle cell patients need. This change will provide more opportunities for people to donate for the ongoing need for rarer blood types and help improve and save lives in the UK. Removing the question will help to improve inclusivity and equity for Black African, and other, donors.

The safety of those donating and those receiving blood and blood products remains the government’s highest priority.

Other questions remain on the donor form to ensure individual, high risk behaviours, including recent travel to countries where HIV is endemic, are picked up and those donors are deferred from donation.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said:

This is another progressive step forward, focusing on individual behaviours, rather than blanket deferrals, and reducing limitations for people to donate blood.

This will make it easier for Black donors in particular to donate blood, ultimately saving lives.

We are creating a fairer system for blood donation. And as we recover from this pandemic, we are committed to levelling up society, which includes improving access to services for everyone.

In the UK, all donations are tested for a multitude of possible infections, including HIV, and there are robust monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure safety of donors and recipients. It is estimated that the risk of an HIV infectious donation not being detected corresponds to one in 23 million.

Minister for Patient Safety, Maria Caulfield, said:

By constantly examining the latest evidence relating to blood donation, we are able to bring forward more inclusive policies to allow more people to donate blood easily, and safely.

In June, further progress towards greater equality was made through a landmark change to blood donation by lifting a blanket deferral for men who have had sex with men in the last 3 months.

These changes will have no impact on the safety of blood in the UK as donation will focus on individual behaviour so only those who are at low risk will be able to give blood.

We are proud to have one of the safest blood supplies in the world and I’m pleased that the latest evidence-based advice on donor eligibility has been accepted in full, creating an even more equitable, better experience for all donors.

Coming into effect by the end of 2021, we hope this change will also remove the unease long felt by some donors about this – in particular the Black African community whose needs we are working hard to listen to and better address, those of African heritage, and their partners, who are all disproportionately affected.

All blood, plasma and platelet donors are now routinely encouraged to consider past infection and current sexual behaviour before coming to donate and if now is the right time to make an appointment. Please check our website for the latest guidance on eligibility before you attend to avoid disappointment.

Chamut Kifetew, Health Equalities Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

We’re glad this decision has been made that will enable more people, particularly those of African heritage, to safely donate much needed blood products in England. It is based on the latest evidence to preserve the safety of the blood supply, helps maximise the number of potential donors and brings England in line with Scotland and Wales.

The removal of the question is particularly important as it eliminates one of the barriers which has until now played a role in preventing the recruitment of more donors from Black communities. Now we need to see the work done to address wider health inequalities faced by Black people in the UK.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said:

We are delighted that the Secretary of State has confirmed this outdated, unnecessary and actively discriminatory question will be removed from blood donor screening forms. The science is clear that this is unnecessary and does nothing to improve safety. Instead, it actively prevents much needed donors coming forward to give blood, particularly from Black communities. The change is long overdue, and we warmly welcome today’s announcement.

Eamonn Ferguson, Professor of Health Psychology at University of Nottingham, said:

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