A day after creating a nationwide uproar for labeling homosexuality as 'unnatural' and a 'disease' at the National Convention of Zila Parishad chairpersons and mayors on HIV & AIDS, Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday defended himself by saying the remarks were 'taken out of context'.
"Some people say it's unnatural, some say natural. Some people say that there should be a law against this, and others not. Many countries have laws, while others do not. I also said that I do not want to go into the controversy. That was not quoted," said Azad.
"As a health minister, the problem is that we have not been able to lower the disease prevalence in men-who-have-sex-with-men. That is because it is difficult to target them." While HIV prevalence among the adult population was only 0.31%, it was 7.3% among MSM.
"I have said in favour of these people. It is a big challenge for the ministry to identify them, treat them and counsel them. I am sorry that the news is being carried as I am the big villain for the MSM," he said.
Gay and HIV/AIDS activist, however, demanded his removal.
"He should either resign or be removed, as he is not fit to hold the post. A statement like this is a clear indication of what happens when important ministries are given to ignorant people. He has absolutely no clue what he is talking about," said Aditya Bondyopadhyay, Delhi-based lawyer and gay activist.
Those working for HIV infected people within the health ministry also criticized the remark. "What the minister has said is in total contrast with the government's AIDS policy. Through National AIDS Control Programme, the government is trying to stop discrimination and statements like these put the entire effort down the drain," said a health ministry official.