Labour MP Diane Abbott says homophobia is one of the reasons why the black community is not seeing substantial improvements in sexual health.

The former shadow public health minister said that testing rates for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remained lower compared to the overall figure for white gay and bisexual men.

Ms Abbott believes influential black evangelical churches have a key role to play in sexual health promotion.

“I think it’s a real challenge”, the Hackney MP told PinkNews.co.uk. “A lot more needs to be done in terms of working with the African community on this issue when the big problem is people are in denial.

“You have men sleeping with men and deny being homosexual so they test really late. That’s what’s happening. We need to be more innovative, I mean the organisation with the biggest reach is the church.

“Black churches in Britain tend not to be very progressive with LGBT rights. But in America, the churches have taken quite a constructive role in terms of offering services for people with HIV.”

“We need to work with the churches and say at the end of the day, there’s a broad Christian duty to reach out to communities and to offer help.”

Data released today from Public Health England (PHE) shows continued high rates of STI transmission among gay and bisexual men.