Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's health minister, has denied he said being gay is a “disease,” The Hindu reported.

The official angered gay rights activists with remarks he made last Monday at a national meeting of regional elected leaders on HIV/AIDS prevention.

Traveling in China, Azad told reporters that he never said that being gay was “unnatural and not good for India” during his talk in New Delhi.

“I said the disease is posing a great problem. I was naturally talking about the HIV disease, when the subject of the conference was HIV/AIDS, not MSM [men who have sex with men],” he said.

“Some activists thought by disease I meant homosexuality. They put superlatives as their own. I never used the word homosexuality, or gays, in my speech. I only used technical terms that the Health Ministry uses … The disease, I said, was HIV.”

He went on to explain his “unnatural” comment: “There has been a long debate, for two years, in electronic and print media, with some people saying this is natural, some people saying this is not natural. I was not referring to my [opinion]. I said there has been a big debate in our country, in the media, that some people are saying natural, some people are saying unnatural.”

While Azad did not mention the words “gay” or “homosexual,” his speech included references to men having sex with men.

“It is a disease which has come from other countries,” he said at the conference.

“Even though it is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now spreading, making it tough to detect it,” Azad added.

“With relationships changing, men are having sex with men now. Though it is easy to find women sex workers and educate them on sex, it is a challenge to identify men having sex with men.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)