Gay rights activists and health workers in India have warned that the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month criminalising gay sex will undo the recent progress made towards fighting AIDS in the country.

Earlier this month, India’s highest court upheld a colonial-era law which law which criminalises gay sex, reversing a landmark 2009 New Delhi High Court Order which had legalised same-sex sexual activity.

Activists fear the ruling may lead to an increase in HIV infections as gay and transgender people may too afraid to seek counselling, treatment and sexual health advice, Times Live reports.

“This law has made us all criminals,” said transgender activist Lakshmi Tripathi, who added that the law will stop many people from approaching doctors or health clinics for prevention or treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“How can I go to an HIV/AIDS clinic?” continued Mr Tripathi. “If I did, I can be hauled into jail for my lifestyle, for violating the law.”

Health activists say that before the law was overturned in 2009, non-governmental organisations that ran AIDS intervention centres faced the threat of police raids.

In 2005, police raided an HIV outreach center in the Indian capital and forced it to close, said Shaleen Rakesh of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance.

“This happened in New Delhi,” he said. “The situation in small towns and in the rural hinterland is much worse.”

UNAIDS revealed earlier this month that the number of organisations providing HIV services to gay and transgender people rose more than 50% in India while homosexuality was decriminalised.

Ashok Row Kavi of the Humsafar Trust, a group working with the gay community, said: “After the 2009 ruling, we saw a jump in gay men, bisexuals and transgenders coming to public health centres on their own, seeking medical advice or treatment. They felt it was safe to do so,”

“Our big worry now is that they may stay away from health centres out of fear,” he added.

Section 377 of India’s penal code bans “sex against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted to mean gay sex, and can be punished with up to 10 years in jail – although at the moment prosecutions remain rare.

Last week, the Indian federal Law Minister Kapil Sibal said that the government had filed a petition with the country’s Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said he is “personally saddened” by the Indian Supreme Court’s decision, while several Bollywood stars, including Anuska Sharma and Farhan Akhtar, have also spoken out to denounce the ruling.