British students have launched a protest against The National Blood Service’s ban on homosexual donors.

Student Unions have started campaigns at Leeds Metropolitan University, while universities including Nottingham, Aberystwyth, Lancaster, Salford and Bangor have mounted “gay blood is good” demonstrations.

Awarenessdrives are also being run at Oxford Brookes, West of England, Liverpool Guild and Wolverhampton.

Birmingham University’s Guild of Students, meanwhile, banned the NBS from setting up a recruitment stall during Freshers’ Week, a decision which the service estimates lost it 150 new donors – each of whom could have been expected to give blood up to three times a year.

As a result, the National Blood Service – which needs 10,000 donations every day to keep up with demand for blood for operations and transfusions – fears a potentially disastrous drop in supply. Only six per cent of the British population give blood and universities are a key recruiting ground for new donors.

The protests were launched by the National Union of Students, Kat Louis – the union’s ‘lesbian gay bisexual transgender’ women’s officer. She told PinkNews.co.uk: “The NUS has always encouraged people to give blood and in no way wants to prevent such an important service. But these actions show how passionate healthy people are about giving blood and not being categorised against UN guidelines.”

“The policy of exclusion exasperates the current shortage of blood”

The campaign is part of a global protest by gay activists. The Daily Mail reports that one protester in Australia is suing its blood service for ‘injury to his feelings’, and the South African service is considering dropping its ban after 100 male campaigners gave blood without revealing until afterwards they were gay.

NBS spokesman, Rakesh Vasishtha told PinkNews.co.uk: “We have had these policies in place for many years in order to maximise blood safety. All our blood is tested for HIV but no test is 100 per cent. This isn’t about discrimination, our policies are constantly reviewed to ensure blood supply is maintained and kept safe.”

The NBS points out that it also bars heterosexuals who have indulged in dangerous practices and anyone who has recently had acupuncture or lived in countries where HIV infection is rife.

Gay men account for around a third of new HIV infections in Britain. The service’s stance is backed by AIDS charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.