On April 3, a Grand Valley State University student e-mailed the Lanthorn after he was deferred from donating blood at a Pew Campus blood drive. An O- universal donor, he had been giving blood since he was in high school, and had participated in GVSU-hosted blood drives for the past four years. For the first time during the preliminary survey, he answered questions about his sexual orientation and activity honestly, and was barred for donating on the grounds that he was considered “high-risk.”

The American Red Cross and Michigan Blood, which operate and facilitate blood drives on GVSU’s campus, must comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s MSM gay blood ban. The regulation, drafted as a reaction to the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, permanently defers any male who has had sex with another male (MSM), even once, since 1977 from donating blood. Ever since its creation, the ban has sparked controversy and especially in recent years, has been met with vocal advocacy groups calling for a reform of the outdated regulations.

Though well-intentioned, the ban seems excessive nowadays, and doesn’t account for increased education about prevention about the disease and new screening technologies that would act as a safeguard against letting any infections through. All blood currently donated is thoroughly screened for a number of risk factors, including HIV/AIDS, and to deny gay men who are or have been sexually active from donating blood, the sentiment demonstrated is essentially that doing so is too much of a hassle.

But reports issued by advocacy group GMHC in 2010 provides scientific and technological rational in favor of a reform of the policy, through a nucleic acid test that detects HIV directly, and has a “window” period of only 9 to 11 days after infection. And in March, a public notice issued by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said the increased effectiveness in screening blood donors for “infectious agents” like HIV, Hepatitis B, syphilis and others had improved to the point where “questions have been raise dabout ht eneed to continue an indefinite deferral of all MSM.”

These advancements give good reason to be hopeful, but that doesn’t mean change is being actively considered. As a society, we’ve come so far, but the FDA’s regulation is a step backward. According to America’s Blood Centers, people need blood transfusions every two seconds, yet only 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate blood, and less than 10 percent do. To deny willing donors the opportunity to give back a much-needed resource to their communities simply because of a 30-year-old policy is outdated and discriminatory. It’s time for blood donations in the U.S. to move into the 21st Century.