Former Health Secretary Lord Fowler says the fight against HIV is “going backwards” because of anti-gay laws in many parts of the world.

Lord Fowler, who served as Margaret Thatcher’s Health Secretary until 1987, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “The real problem is that you have got 35 million people living with HIV in the world today, but half of those don’t know they have the infection.

“And one of the reasons why they won’t come forward for testing is because of the prejudice and the laws against homosexuality, against gay people, against lesbians and the stigma connected with HIV.”

The Conservative peer added: “Unless we tackle that; my fear is we are going backwards.”

AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice, a book written by Lord Fowler, charting the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, is due to be released on 9 June.

Uganda’s Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo last month accused the country’s HIV support groups of “promoting homosexuality” and warned that he will take action against them.

The Ugandan Parliament has passed a bill that will criminalise intentional transmission of HIV as well as attempted transmission of the virus.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) described Uganda’s HIV law as “deeply flawed” in part because it is based on what the group called “stigma and discrimination.”