GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week changed its policy on blood donations, now allowing donations from gay and bisexual men.

Those groups of people had been prohibited from donating, dating back to the HIV epidemic in the 1980s.

“We fully support efforts by our peers to make blood donations more inclusive,” Kristen Paltzer with Versiti Blood Center of Michigan said. “As a blood community, we strongly support the use of rational, science-based deferral periods that are applied fairly and consistently among blood donor.”

The change is long expected, but some say the latest rules still discriminate against certain groups. Under the new guidelines, donors will still be questioned about sexual history and some factors may lead to deferral:

“This policy eliminates time-based deferrals and screening questions specific to men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with MSM. Under the final guidance issued today, all prospective blood donors will answer a series of individual, risk-based questions to determine eligibility. All prospective donors who report having a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner in the past three months, and anal sex in the past three months, would be deferred to reduce the likelihood of donations by individuals with new or recent HIV infection who may be in the window period for detection of HIV by nucleic acid testing.”

FDA, May 11, 2023

“Saying certain people cannot donate based on their sexual acts is still discriminatory,” Jazz McKinney with Grand Rapids Pride Center said. “While we’re happy they’ve definitely reduced it and not made it a lifetime ban, any sort of ban is still discriminatory.”

Local blood banks will implement the changes as soon as possible, but Paltzer said it may take some time.

“We’ve been working on these updates since the beginning of January when the announcement was first made and our intention is to be able to welcome and welcome back donors as soon as possible,” Paltzer said.

Last year, the American Red Cross declared the blood shortage a national crisis. Versiti was down to a one-day supply in January 2022.

“Our blood supply is day-by-day. Today our supply is stable but we also know that we are coming into the holiday travel season … and that pretty significantly impacts our collections,” Paltzer said. “All of our blood is obviously tested. That is consistent for any blood donation. So when you make a blood donation, they take that little tube at the beginning that is the blood that gets tested to make sure everything is safe prior to being transported to a hospital to be used for a transfusion.”