A Conservative Party candidate in Hampshire has defended his views against equalising the gay age of consent, saying he feels there is an increased risk of HIV infection.

Dr Julian Lewis, the incumbent MP for New Forest East and shadow defence minister, was accused of being a “paranoid homophobe” at a local hustings by left-wing activist and student Andrew Tindall.

Mr Tindall told the Labour-supporting blog Left Foot Forward that Dr Lewis said he opposed lowering the age of consent for gay men to 16 because it posed a risk of HIV.

The age of consent for gay men was lowered to 16 from 18 in 2000.

Mr Tindall said: “Questioned on his gay rights votes, he continued his claims that homosexuality/anal sex alone poses risk of HIV/AIDS, and that is why he still opposes gay sex at 16.

“Someone put it to him that it is no more dangerous than any sexual activity, to which he insisted on proof, but when asked to do the same – over 10 years after he already made up his mind – he said he didn’t have figures and it would have to be a project to find them.

“He then made a comparison that gay sex is as big a health risk as joining the Army, and that they don’t let people join the Army until the age of majority, so why should gay sex be allowed at 16 if joining the Army isn’t.”

Through his spokesman, Dr Lewis told PinkNews.co.uk: “The account given by Andrew Tindall is both incomplete and inaccurate. What I said at the meeting is what is exactly what I always say on this subject as spelled out in a letter to a constituent who asked for my view.”

The letter, which Dr Lewis’ office faxed to PinkNews.co.uk, said: “I was very strongly against lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16. My reasoning was that there is a seriously increased risk of HIV infection arising from male homosexual activity.

“When it comes to legalising practices that involve serious risk, I believe the higher limit should apply. This is the reason we no longer allow 16 and 17-year-old into front-line situations in the Armed Forces, for example.”

Dr Lewis has voted against most gay rights measures, such as adoption rights for gay parents and the repeal of Section 28. However, he wrote in his letter that he supported civil partnerships.

He wrote: “On the other hand (though no one seems to have noticed), I voted in favour of the Civil Partnerships Bill. One of the criticisms commonly made of gay relationships is that very often they do not last.

“It therefore seems obvious to me that, when a gay couple wish to commit to each other, by forming a permanent relationships, they should be encouraged and assisted in every way.”