A public consultation is to be held today on the ban on gay men donating blood.
The latest review, in January 2007, recommended that the policy of banning gay and bisexual men from donating blood should be continued.
It means that any man who has ever had sex with another man is banned for life from donating, along with women who have had sex with them. Other people who are banned from donating include those who have sex for money or drugs.
Today’s meeting will be held by the independent Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, which advises the government on issues of blood safety.
Although sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has supported the ban, others such as gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the National AIDS Trust believe it is discriminatory.
He said: “This review of the blanket, lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood is long overdue. It has been ordered by the National Blood Service in response to criticisms and protests by a range of organisations, including the LGBT human rights group OutRage!, the National AIDS Trust and the National Union of Students.”
Tatchell added: “The lifetime ban is backed by the government, which claims to oppose homophobic discrimination. It is based on the stereotyped, irrational, bigoted and unscientific assumption that any man who has had oral or anal sex with another man – even just once 40 years ago with a condom – is high risk for HIV. This is nonsense.
“The truth is that most gay and bisexual men do not have HIV and will never have HIV. Their blood is safe.”
The National Union of Students is holding a protest outside the meeting, which is to be held at the Royal Horticultural Halls Conference Centre in Greycoat Street at 1pm.
It is thought that one in 25 UK gay men have HIV, with this figure rising to one in ten in London and one in eight in Brighton.
Since 1985, there have only been two cases of patients contracting HIV through a blood transfusion.