In the first public government comment on homosexuality in Malawi, a senior official said that the conservative southeast African country must make efforts to recognize gay rights if it is to properly address HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports.

Implementing HIV prevention campaigns in the country has reduced prevalence among the general population from 14 to 12 percent, while reducing AIDS-related deaths by 70 percent. However, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is at about 25 percent, according to the Centre for the Development of People, an LGBT advocacy group.

“There is a need to incorporate a human rights approach in the delivery of HIV and AIDS services to such risk groups like men who have sexual intercourse with men if we have to fight AIDS,” said Mary Shawa, secretary for nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the president’s office.