The United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean has said that countries in the region should move to decriminalise gay sex.

George Alleyne said that such a move would help the fight against AIDS.

“I believe that the existence of these laws contribute to infected and potentially infected men not coming forward to be tested, and I will propose that such laws be revised,” he said at a meeting in Guyana.

In 2007, an estimated 230,000 people in the Caribbean were living with HIV, while an estimated 20,000 were newly infected, and 14,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to UNAIDS.

Mr Alleyne said homophobia was rampant and one of several “egregious manifestations of stigma and discrimination,” reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.

His comments echo those of a British government minister.

Gareth Thomas, minister of state at the Department for International Development, told PinkNews.co.uk last month that tackling state and cultural homophobia is vital to the fight against HIV in the Caribbean.

He said he was concerned that “things are not getting better on either front, and more change is necessary.”

His role at DFID has responsibility for HIV and Mr Thomas has visited the Caribbean several times.

“During those visits I have been struck by the extent to which homophobia and the anti-gay legislation is impacting the effort to fight the surge of HIV infections,” he said.

During a recent meeting with Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Trade Minister, Mr Thomas raised the issue head on.

“We had an acknowledgment there was an issue, though there was not a conversation about immediate next steps,” he said.

A survey published in Jamaica in June found that the Prime Minister’s stridently anti-gay statements have boosted his popularity.

45% of people in a poll commissioned by the Jamaica Gleaner said that they are more likely to vote for incumbent Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party after he told the BBC that he would never allow gays in his Cabinet.