Calls for a repeal of India’s ban on homosexuality have increased after a UNAIDS representative claimed the prohibition is contributing to an increase of HIV.

Denis Broun’s remarks come on the eve of World AIDS Day, and echoes calls from Indian activists, celebrities and scholars to abandon the colonial era law.

Presently there is a 10 year prison term for homosexual activity, while in the meantime India has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS currently at 5.7 million, according to the state’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

Mr Broun told Reuters that the government should not be “keeping its head in the sand.”

He said: “People are being harassed by Section 377 and men having sex with men do not come forward and receive adequate prevention information.

“The government needs a reality check and (has) to do away with this law if it is serious about fighting HIV/AIDS.”

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.