A Tasmanian gay rights activist has questioned why the Australian Red Cross’ policy on blood donation is harsher on gay men than it is on people with tattoos and piercings.

The organisation bans men from donating blood within 12 months of having gay sex but people who have had tattoos, piercings and acupuncture may donate six months after their procedures.

The six-month limit is a new rule which comes into force next month.

Gay activist Rodney Croome accused Red Cross of discrimination.

He told ABC: “The fact the Red Cross is willing to review its current donor guidelines for people who have piercings and acupuncture and tattoos, but not review guidelines when it comes to gay blood donation, really does suggest the Red Cross is, at best, engaged in some fairly arbitrary decision-making, or at worst, is just downright homophobic.”

The UK and America both have lifetime bans on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

British prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg have both said they will consider a change in the law and the government’s Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs is undertaking a review of whether the comprehensive ban should remain.