Following complaints, authorities in Cannes have pulled a questionnaire intended to shed light on why the area has a higher proportion of older people being diagnosed with HIV.

According to the Sida Info Service, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur has a rate of HIV diagnoses for people over the age of 60 which is above the national average.

A trial questionnaire was issued at three retirement homes in the Riviera city of Cannes to build a better picture of older people’s sexuality in the southern department.

Stéphane Grondin, delegate for the Alpes-Maritimes at the SIS said in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, 7 percent of new HIV diagnoses were among the over-60s, compared with 4.7 percent nationally.

The area has the second highest rate in France for new infections.

The Centre Communal d’Action Social, CCAS, had developed the questionnaire which asked older people anonymous questions about whether they were gay, bisexual or straight an about their sexual past.

160 senior citizens in the resort answered the questionnaire but the mayor received a handful of complaints from retirees who were “shocked” by the intimacy of the questions, tetu.com reported. The UMP mayor, Bernard Brochand, subsequently withdrew the questionnaires.

Mr Grondin told AFP: “It’s a shame because we’ve been working on this project for a year, but the important thing in all the kerfuffle, is that people are talking about it.”

He added that the reactions to the questionnaire “show there is a job to do”.

While it was true there were other “important issues in the elderly such as addiction and Alzheimer’s disease”, Mr Grondin said they wanted to expose this particular “taboo”.