UNAIDS on Thursday criticised Senegal for jailing nine gay men, saying that homophobic acts would not help efforts to prevent HIV infection in the west African country.
"There is no place for homophobia. Universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support must be accessible to all people in Senegal who are in need - including men who have sex with men," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe.
"This will only happen if the men convicted are released and steps taken to rebuild trust with affected communities," added the head of the UN agency leading the global fights against HIV/AIDS.
A coalition that includes the French Embassy and the Swedish Embassy is working to secure the men's release, the organisation said.
A Senegalese court sentenced each of the nine to eight years in jail, the toughest such sentence to date in a country where homosexuality is outlawed.
The men, all under 30, were arrested in December in the Dakar suburb of Mbao.
The case is currently under appeal.