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Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 24 October 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent conferences on the international aspects of AIDS have been attended by Ministers or officials; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

Officials have attended eight conferences on AIDS issues this year. AIDS is a global threat, and international co-operation is required to control its spread. Our strategy is highly regarded internationally, and we play a leading role in international meetings on the subject.

It is reassuring to hear that officials are being sent to attend those important international gatherings, but does the Minister accept that ministerial involvement is also important? He should pay particular attention to the worrying increase in the number of AIDS cases in the heterosexual community, particularly those cases that have been contracted as a result of foreign travel. What will Ministers do in future to ensure that business men and holiday makers are given the proper information that they need to protect themselves?

This is a very important matter, and ministerial involvement is constant. With regard to the spread of AIDS through heterosexual contacts by travellers abroad, the World Health Organisation runs co-ordinated national AIDS programmes in almost every country and has published a booklet, "AIDS Information For Travellers", which is widely available.

I support what the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) said. I have just come from a meeting of the all-party group on AIDS and the key message that we must get across is the danger faced by the heterosexual community. Given the worrying figures already mentioned, will my hon. Friend undertake to consider ways in which to increase awareness of the dangers in that community?

Of course. We are very much aware of the increase in AIDS in the heterosexual community. I shall certainly undertake to reconsider these matters to see whether there are any further initiatives that we can take.

AIDS is a terrifying problem which has serious implications—the likely death of millions of people throughout the world. What support has been given to WHO so that the spread of AIDS in other countries can at least be combated by publicity and that research done in Britain and the United States can be shared with the poorer countries, which are suffering just as badly, if not worse than ourselves, from the problem of AIDS?

The World Health Organisation is leading the action against AIDS. The United Kingdom is the third largest donor and we have pledged £16·83 million so far.