Up to 90 per cent of gay men in Asia cannot access HIV care and advice, a United Nations-backed report has found.

The report, released today, said rates of the disease had reached alarming levels among gay men on the continent and repressive laws in many countries are making the situation worse.

It said: “Nineteen of 48 countries in the Asia Pacific region criminalise male-to-male sex, and these laws often take on the force of vigilantism, often leading to abuse and human rights violations.

“Even where there are no specific offences for male-to-male sex, MSM (men who have sex with men) and transgender people are subject to police abuses and are targeted by police for other offences relating to public order, vagrancy, prostitution and obscenity.”

The report said that in many countries, police disrupted HIV help services and confiscated items such as condoms and lubricant. It also said that public order and prostitution offences were being used selectively to punish gay men.

Between ten and 30 per cent of new HIV infections in Asian countries were being found in gay and bisexual men.

In Bangkok, 30.8 per cent of HIV infections were being found in gay and bisexual men, compared to 1.4 per cent of the adult population in Thailand. In Mumbai’s gay and bisexual population, the figure was 17 per cent versus 0.36 per cent for the adult population through India.

The research was put together by the United Nations Development Programme, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health and the University of Hong Kong.

The UN’s Mandeep Dhaliwal said in a statement: “The effectiveness of the HIV response will depend not just on the sustained scale up of HIV prevention, treatment and care, but on whether the legal and social environment support or hinder programmes for those who are most vulnerable.”