New Delhi: With his remarks on homosexuality
among men creating an uproar, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said that he had been "quoted out of context"
and he "never intended to hurt the sentiments of any section
After adverse reactions came in from various sections,
including some gay organisations, Azad convened a hurried
press briefing, where he said, "It is not my intention at all
to hurt the sentiments of any section of society. I never used
the words homosexuality or gay and the `disease` that I was
referring to was HIV and not as quoted".
"I have used only technical language and not used any
of the words "gay" or "homosexuality" used normally."
Azad maintained that the number of men having sex with
men (MSMs) in our country was increasing and the prevalence of
HIV among this group was high as compared to the national
average. "It is an issue of concern for us and is thus a major
challenge for the Health Ministry. It is a challenge for us to
identify them, counsel them and treat them".
"My worry is in favour of those MSMs and not against
them", he further clarified, without getting into more
discussion on the issue.
Quoting figures, the Health Minister said the prevalence
of HIV among MSMs was 7.3 per cent, as against the national
average of 0.31 per cent of HIV incidence among adults, which
was considerably high.
Azad`s comments about homosexuality being a "disease"
and being "unnatural" has generated a heated debate and many
gay clubs and other organisations have criticised him and
sought his resignation.
The Minister, however, reiterated that it was difficult
to find MSMs, even though female sex workers were found at
designated places and could be counselled or treated for HIV.
"When we were children, we only heard about such a
disease prevalent abroad and it was not there in our country.
There is nothing wrong in terming HIV as a disease."
On being asked about his "unnatural" remarks about
MSMs, Azad said, "Anyone may have a different opinion over the
issue. I do not wish to get into any controversy or debate".
When asked specifically about the difference between
homosexuals, gays and MSMs, Azad refused to dwell further on
the issue and ended the conference.