Sujatha Rao, chief of Indian AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has joined growing protests in India calling the law banning homosexuality ”hateful and not acceptable” reports Reuters.

Ms Rao said scrapping the law is “fundamental” to the fight against AIDS.

Her comments were made this Tuesday to cheering delegates at the end of a four-day Asia-Pacific conference on male sexual health and HIV.

The law which criminalises homosexuality was enacted in 1861 by British colonial rulers, and is currently being challenged in New Delhi’s High Court by an anti-AIDS group, supported by NACO.

Gay activists say policemen use the law to force money from gay men sitting in parks and the threat of prison merely compounds social stigma and discrimination the sexual minority faces in India.

The United Nations (UN) predicts India has 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, the highest figure in the world.

Ms Rao’s comments have been seen as the strongest public criticism of the law by a government official and come 10 days after leading Indian writers, lawyers and artists petitioned to the government asking it to remove the “monstrous” law.

Just two days ago a survey by The Hindustan Times, revealed only one third of New Delhi’s youth favour keeping the homophobic law.