India has an estimated 25 lakh gay population and about 7 per cent (1.75 lakh) of them have HIV, the government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

“The population of Men who have Sex with Men was estimated to be 25 lakh in India,” the government said in its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, citing figures of the National Aids Control programme.

The affidavit, filed by the Ministry of health, said that it is planning to bring 4 lakh high risk Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) under its AIDS control programme and it has already covered around 2 lakh.

It further said that estimated HIV prevalence among Female Sex Workers is 4.60-4.94 per cent, and among MSM it is 6.54 -7.23 per cent and in case of lnjecting Drug Users it is 9.42-10.30 per cent.

The government affidavit was filed in compliance with the Supreme Court’s direction seeking detailed information on the number of gays in the country and how many of them have HIV.

The government submitted that there has been an overall reduction of HIV prevalence, HIV incidence (new infections) as well as deaths due to AIDS-related causes because of its AIDS control programme.

Earlier, gay rights activists came out in support of decriminalisation of homosexual behaviour among consenting adults in private saying that it would help in bringing them in national mainstream.

The Naz Foundation, an NGO, working for the welfare and rehabilitation of people with the HIV, submitted that criminalising gay sex will lead to preventing gays come out in the open.

“This population is hidden in the society and they are not available for getting proper health care facilities. There is a greater chance of the transmission of disease among them,” advocate Anand Grover, appearing for the NGO, said.

A bench headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi then asked him to place reports and studies done by experts to substantiate his arguments.

In the last hearing on February 29, 2012 various social and religious organisations had vehemently opposed decriminalisation of gay sex saying that allowing such acts would lead to a “horrendous” situation.

The Delhi High Court had in 2009 decriminalised gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults of same sex in private would not be an offence.

Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC makes gay sex a criminal offence entailing punishment up to life term.

The Supreme Court is hearing petitions filed by anti-gay rights activists as also by political, social and religious organisations, which have opposed the High Court verdict.

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