Officials at the United Nations observed the International Day Against Homophobia Friday, urging member states to abolish laws criminalizing homosexuality, dpa reported.
To mark the day, which is not officially observed by the UN, several leaders of the international organization condemned discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, calling it a human rights abuse.
"The fight against homophobia is a core part of the broader battle for human rights for all," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.
Michel Sidibe, director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS, said homophobia hinders the fight against AIDS as the cooperation of LGBT people are essential to stop the epidemic.
Sidibe noted that many people living with HIV are unable to get medical treatment because they are isolated for fear of being persecuted for being homosexual.
"When we finally have the tools and resources to transform HIV into a chronic disease ... I am outraged that we still have to fight prejudice, stigma ... and criminalization of gays, lesbian and transgender people," Sidibe said.
Currently, 76 countries around the world consider homosexuality a criminal offence punishable by law, according to the UN.
Sidibe said that despite advances in treatment, HIV is on the rise among the LGBT community because of the growing homophobia. He added that gay men are 19 times more like to contract the illness.
Maarit Kohonen Sheriff, deputy head of the New York office for human rights, said laws should be changed, but true transformation will come only if attitudes are shifted too.
"People are turned into criminals just because of whom they love," Kohonen said. "If you put it that way, it's not offensive to anybody."
The UN passed a historic resolution in June 2011 condemning every act of violence or discrimination against LGBT people as violations of human rights.