India’s health minister on Monday called homosexuality is a “disease” that is “spreading fast” throughout the country.
Speaking at a conference on HIV/AIDS, Ghulam Nabi Azad said that gay sex “has now unfortunately come to our country and there is a substantial number of such people in India.”
“Even through it [homosexuality] is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now fast spreading, making it tough to detect it,” he said.
Anand Grover, United Nations special rapporteur on health, criticized Azad’s comments:
“It’s unfortunate, regrettable and totally unacceptable that a minister of his stature, who has been familiar with HIV for at least two years, is still insensitive to vulnerable groups such MSMs, who have done commendable work in reducing the transmission of new infections.”
Gay sex was decriminalized in India in 2009 when the Delhi High Court struck down the law that made same-gender sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The ruling was widely welcomed by the country’s gay community, which said the order would help protect them from harassment and persecution.
An estimated 2.5 million Indians have HIV, making it the country with the largest number of people living with the disease in Asia.