India’s health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has caused uproar by referring to homosexuality as an unnatural “disease” from the west.

Mr Azad was speaking at a conference on HIV and AIDS in Delhi yesterday when he said: “Unfortunately this disease has come to our country too … where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen but does.”

His remarks came almost two years to the day since the Delhi High Court ruled that homosexuality should be decriminalised.

Gay rights campaigners were furious at the health minister’s comments.

Anjali Gopalan, who heads the NAZ Foundation, which campaigns for HIV and gay rights, told Associated Press:

“These comments help no cause. It’s definitely not going to help in our fight against HIV.”

An estimated 2.5 million people in India have HIV and experts say that tackling stigma around homosexuality is a vital part of cutting new infections.