Remarks were taken out of context, clarifies Azad


New Delhi: A day after sparking off a controversy with his remark that men having sex with men (MSM) was a “disease” and “unnatural”, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Tuesday sought to clarify that the remarks were taken out of context and had referred to the high rate of prevalence of HIV/AIDS among this section of populace.

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“It was taken out of context,” he told reporters here. He asserted that he had prefaced those remarks by saying that there was a lot of controversy about MSM.

“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,” Azad said, explaining his stance after being pilloried by gay and HIV/AIDS activist.

On Monday at a conference on HIV/AIDS, Azad said: “The disease of MSM is unnatural and not good for India. We are not able to identify where it is happening as it is less reported also.”

Meanwhile, the minister Tuesday said he was concerned with the issue of high prevalence rate among MSM. “As a health minister, the problem is that while we have lowered it (prevalance) among truckers, female sex workers, but in MSM, we have not been able to lower the prevalence. That is because it is difficult to target them.”

He noted that while HIV prevalence among the adult population was only 0.31 percent, it was 7.3 percent among MSM.

“If I have said something, I have said in favour of those men having sex with men. 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.