Campaigners have claimed NHS England was encouraging "homophobic views" with "dog-whistle" tactics in its response to a new HIV treatment drug.
Earlier this month the High Court ruled that the NHS could administer - and thus pay for - a new treatment called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which has been described as a "game-changer" in the fight against HIV. The NHS had suggested this was the responsibility of Britain's local authorities, and has since announced that it will contest the High Court's ruling.
Now the National Aids Trust has written to NHS England accusing it of stirring up bigoted views through its fight against the decision.
Trust chief executive Deborah Gold said the NHS had inaccurately portrayed PrEP as a treatment for promiscuous gay men. She told the BBC: "I think, if you look at the press releases and statements that were made by the NHS in the run-up to the judicial review hearing and then afterwards, it's clear that it was very irresponsible, loose language.
"It was really unsurprising that [the negative] headlines came from that. They had some responsibility, I think, to think more carefully about that.
"They used an inaccurate headline, which I think really had that kind of dog-whistle politics that spoke to those kind of homophobic views. They started by describing PrEP as something that was for gay men that have multiple partners.
"Actually PrEP is available for all kinds of people that fit the risk profile and number of sexual partners is actually not at all part of the criteria for being able to get PrEP."
Gold called on NHS England chiefs to "think very carefully" about how they respond during the course of the appeal and to make sure that they avoid "this kind of inflammatory language".
NHS England said it rejected the accusations made by the National Aids Trust and would be responding to the letter in due course.
Critics have suggested the drug would not be needed if at-risk people practised safe sex and that funding it could mean a delay in the commission of other treatments.