Britain’s largest sexual health charity has praised Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s call for a new cross-party consensus on tackling HIV within the gay community, but warns “it needs to be backed up” with action from local and central government.

Yesterday, in an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk, the Liberal Democrat leader said the time had come for the UK’s political leaders to redouble their efforts in tackling the HIV epidemic among gay and bisexual men.

When asked if greater cross-party leadership on HIV was needed, in the same way the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had all worked together to legalise equal marriage in England and Wales, Mr Clegg said HIV required a new “cross-party commitment”.

“I certainly think that this is something which should not in any way be disfigured by party politics,” he said to PinkNews.co.uk.

Mr Clegg also expressed his frustration at the failure of the Cabinet to agree on the need to “improve” and “modernise” sex education guidance.

Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk on Thursday, Daisy Ellis, head of parliamentary and public affairs at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “All three main political parties have already voiced their commitment to halving undiagnosed HIV, so it’s certainly an issue that’s on their radar.

“Having cross-party support for the issue is a great start, but – to succeed in driving down rates – it needs to be backed up by action at every level of government. Local councillors, with new responsibility for public health, need to follow the example set by their party leaders and make HIV a priority. Complacency is not an option.”

On Wednesday, the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust praised Nick Clegg for his remarks.

Figures released in November by Public Health England showed HIV infections among gay and bisexual men at a record high.

3,250 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2012, the highest annual figure since the start of the epidemic.