The small African nation of Burundi recently adopted a raft of new laws, among them is the criminalization of being gay, reports AFP.

Some lawmakers were critical of the new prohibition against gays.

“Unfortunately, this penal law is also a regression because it now makes homosexuality a criminal offense, whereas it had been tolerated until now,” said MP Catherine Mabobori, who abstained during the vote.

The Republic of Burundi is a small country in Eastern Africa bordering Rwanda. The nation declared its independence from its European colonizers in 1962. Soon afterwards, the nation became embroiled in a civil war between Hutus and Tutsis that continues to this day.

Citing a desperate need to fight the spread of AIDS in a continent ravaged by the disease, gay rights activists protested the law.

“We at ARDHO are outraged by this decision to criminalize homosexuality. We don't understand how educated people can adopt such a law because homosexuality is neither a disease nor a deviance,” an official with the Association for the Respect of Homosexuals' Rights said.

“How are we going to be able continue the struggle against AIDS in our community if every homosexual has to go underground,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The United Nations recently urged India to decriminalize being gay, saying such laws hinder HIV prevention efforts aimed at gay men.

“Countries which protect men who have sex with men ... have double the rate of coverage of HIV prevention services – as much as 60 percent,” Jeffrey O'Malley, director of the United Nations Development Program on HIV/AIDS, told AFP.