Rates of HIV infections in gay men are increasing in countries which have homophobic attitudes, the chief of the UN AIDS agency has said.

Michel Sidibe told journalists at a lunch yesterday that rates of infection among gay men were rising in areas such as Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality.

He said that in Africa and China, around 33 per cent of new HIV infections were being found in gay men, which he said was a significant increase.

AP reports that on new laws being introduced in countries such as Uganda, he said: “You have also a growing conservatism which is making me very scared.

“We must insist that the rights of the minorities are upheld. If we don’t do that … I think the epidemic will grow again. We cannot accept the tyranny of the majority.”

Mr Sidibe said that, in contrast, between six and nine per cent of new infections are found in gay men in the Caribbean, which has fewer laws against homosexuality.

He blamed the rising infection rates on infected people being too scared to seek help and fearing they will be punished.

He also cited rising infection rates in drug users and prostitutes in countries which have stringent laws against drug use and prostitution.

Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexuality law will impose the death penalty on those caught having gay sex while infected with HIV.

The bill’s sponsor, David Bahati MP, claims it will reduce HIV infections in the country, although health experts say it will have the opposite effect.

Mr Sidibe also mentioned HIV infections in the US, saying it was “shocking” that more than 50 per cent of new infections in 2009 occurred in gay men.

He said: “It seems like we have come full circle. After almost no cases a few years ago we are seeing again this new peak among people who are not having access to all the information, the protection that is needed.”