Ukip has disowned a Twitter account that posted a message saying World Aids Day was “a reminder that we must tighten our borders”.
A spokesperson for Nigel Farage’s party said the @UKIPCheltenham account is not associated with the branch and is part of a “dirty tricks” campaign to discredit Ukip.
A tweet on Monday appearing to link HIV and Aids with immigration sparked a storm of criticism against the party.
It read: “#WorldAIDSDay is a sad day but also a reminder that we must tighten our borders #UKIPimmigration."
As outraged Twitter users wrote angry messages to the profile, a tweet was sent just 20 minutes later saying: “My #WorldAIDSDay tweet has got out of hand. I didn't mean to offend anyone with HIV or AIDS. We need to look beyond this and at our borders.
“This has all been taken out of context. Please stop the hate mail.”
The @UKIPCheltenham account was started on 28 November and has only 53 followers after 42 tweets.
As well as the posts about World Aids Day, there had been messages linking to the official website and Facebook page.
One also discouraged people from following @UKIPEastLondon and other fake accounts and another encouraged voters to back the party’s Cheltenham candidate, Christina Simmonds, in the general election.
Ukip's Cheltenham branch secretary, Martin Leonard, claimed the @UKIPCheltenham account was genuine when contacted by the Mirror, saying it was run by the membership secretary.
But a post on the branch’s official Facebook page called the account “fake”, saying it has no connection with it or the national party and “reflects the views of neither”.
Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairperson of Ukip, has issued a note to party members warning of fraudulent accounts including @UKIPEastLondon @UKIPNorthLondon @UKIPYeovil and @UKIPFuture.
She described a pattern of a series of “harmless” tweets until a profile has sufficient followers, including Ukip politicians and journalists, when inflammatory messages start to appear.
A spokesperson for Ukip put Mr Leonard’s claim the Cheltenham account was real down to his age and unfamiliarity with social networks.
“Ukip is obviously being targeted by cowardly, online trolls as part of a dirty tricks campaign,” he added.
“People are setting up fake Ukip accounts on Twitter and posting nasty and abhorrent comments. They absolutely do not reflect UKIP’s views.
"Ukip Cheltenham is the latest in a series of accounts that follow the same pattern.
“Ukip has reported the malicious behaviour to Twitter, and we would ask that all other political parties clarify as to whether they are associated with these smear tactics in any way, be it from their activists, or party staff.”
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
In pictures: The rise of Ukip
1/8 1993: Alan Sked forms Ukip
History professor Alan Sked had been active in anti-EU politics for a while beore he founded Ukip in 1993. He resigned from the party after the 1997 election, concerned that it was attracting far-right members, and has been critical of Ukip since. Picture: Reuters
2/8 2005: Kilroy defects
Former TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk founded Veritas in 2005, after a failed bid to become leader, and took many of Ukip's elected members with him. But the party slowly lost its popularity and didn't put forward any candidates in the last election. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty REUTERS KD/RUS
3/8 2010: Farage becomes leader, again
Farage had led Ukip from 2006 until 2009, when he stood down to fight against the Speaker, John Bercow, for his Buckingham seat. He failed to win the election and returned to lead the party in November 2010. Picture: REUTERS/Kieran Doherty
4/8 2010: Ukip fights for election
Nigel Farage was injured in a plane crash on polling day in the 2010 general election, but his party increased its success in the votes. It fielded 572 candidates and took 3.1% of the vote, though failed to win any seats. REUTERS/Darren Staples
5/8 2013: Eastleigh gains
Ukip's candidate Diane James got the highest ever number of votes for any candidate from the party, but was beaten by the Liberal Democrats. The surge in support gave Ukip confidence ahead of local and European elections later in the year. Picture: Reuters
6/8 2013: Bloom kicked out
Godfrey Bloom, who served as an Ukip MEP from 2004 to 2014, had the whip withdrawn in 2013 after sexist comments and an attack on a journalist. He sat as an independent MEP until 2014, when he ended his term in office. Picture: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
7/8 2014: European election success
Ukip got a higher proportion of the vote than any other party in 2014's European elections, adding 11 new MEPs and taking its total to 24. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
8/8 2014: Carswell defects
Douglas Carswell defected from Ukip at the end of August, and was followed by Mark Reckless at the end of September, who resigned from the Tories amid rumours of many more defections to come. Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville
The furore came on the day when HIV-positive activists dumped half a ton of manure outside a Ukip office, saying “what goes around comes around”.
Members of the London-based Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (Act Up) said they wanted to show Mr Farage what they thought of his recent statements suggesting people with Aids should be barred from entering the UK.
The Ukip leader later defended his assertion in a Newsweek interview that “quality” immigrants include “people who do not have HIV…that’s a good start.”
“I do not think people with life-threatening diseases should be treated by our National Health Service and that is an absolute essential condition for working out a proper immigration policy,” he said.
Activists from Aids group Act Up called his stance “bull****”.Reuse content