A US televangelist has claimed that gay men have been purposely spreading HIV using special rings which cut the hand of strangers they shake hands with.

Pat Robertson, the host of the 700 Club, and the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), made the comments on Tuesday, specifying that the conspiracy was most prevalent in cities such as San Francisco.

The host claimed that his comments were taken out of context, and has since had CBN edit the interview, however the original version remained for some time on other platforms.

During the segment, which included questions and answers, Robertson responded to a listener named Mary, who said she did not know what to do as her church had asked her to unknowingly transport a man living with HIV to and from a Sunday school.

“I feel deceived,” the listener wrote. “What if there had been an accident?”

Responding, Robertson, 83, said:”I used to think it was transmitted by saliva and other things… Now they say it may be sexual contact.”

His advice regarding the listener’s predicament was “don’t have sex with him”.

Continuing, he said: “But that’s too simplistic… There are laws now, I think the homosexual community has put these draconian laws on the books that prohibit people from discussing this particular affliction, you can tell somebody you had a heart attack, you can tell them they’ve got high blood pressure, but you can’t tell anybody you’ve got AIDS.

“You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said. “Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”

The videos posted by CBN have since been edited, and other sites which reposted the video, including Right Wing Watch, have had copyright claims brought against them on YouTube. Robertson has since issued an apology to the Atlantic Wire, but stood by his remarks, saying that they were “misunderstood”, by some people.

He said: “I was asked by a viewer whether she had a right to leave her church because she had been asked to transport an elderly man who had AIDS and about whose condition she had not been informed. My advice was that the risk of contagion in those circumstances was quite low and that she should continue to attend the church and not worry about the incident.

“In my own experience, our organization sponsored a meeting years ago in San Francisco where trained security officers warned me about shaking hands because, in those days, certain AIDS-infected activists were deliberately trying to infect people like me by virtue of rings which would cut fingers and transfer blood.

“I regret that my remarks had been misunderstood, but this often happens because people do not listen to the context of remarks which are being said. In no wise [sic] were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease.”

Robertson in July spoke against equal marriage during his programme, joking that Facebook should install a “vomit” button to represent his reaction to pictures of gay people kissing.