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Volume 205: debated on Friday 13 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many deaths occurred in 1991 from HIV-related illnesses, measles, meningitis, whooping cough and cot death; and what resources are being deployed by his Department to combat these diseases, respectively.

In 1991, the public health laboratory service communicable disease surveillance centre reported the number of deaths in reported AIDS cases as 816. The actual number, not yet available because of delays in the reporting system, is estimated to be over 1,250. In addition, 46 deaths were reported in 1991 in HIV infected persons without AIDS. This number may also increase as a result of delayed reporting. In 1991 the Government allocated £11 million for the development of AIDS public education, £147·5 million to health and local authorities for the development of AIDS services including diagnosis, treatment, care and prevention, and nearly £2 million to the voluntary sector. The Medical Research Council has been allocated £31 million over five years for programmes on vaccines and drugs for treatment.Provisional reports indicate that there were no deaths from acute measles or whooping cough in England and Wales in 1991. Immunisation against both diseases is included in the national childhood immunisation programme, and at November 1991, coverage was 90 per cent. of children aged two years for measles and 88 per cent. at 18 months for whooping cough. It is not possible to give the precise cost of these vaccines, but the immunisation publicity campaign in 1991–92 has cost 1·8 million with £2·2 million planned for 1992–93.Deaths from all forms of meningitis totalled 236 in England and Wales for the first three quarters of 1991. Figures for the final quarter are not yet available. In October a vaccine—"Hib"—against invasive haemophilus disease, one of the main causes of bacterial meningitis, will be added to the programme. A major information and education campaign will precede the launch of Hib vaccine.In 1990, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of infant deaths in England and Wales with any mention of sudden infant death on the death certificate was 1,280, a welcome reduction from the peak of 1,629 deaths in 1988. Whilst the causes of sudden infant death remain unknown, recent research showing that placing babies down to sleep on their back or side can reduce significantly the risk of cot death led to the launch of the £2 million "Back to Sleep" campaign in December 1991 and the issue of 3 million leaflets on "Reducing the Risk of Cot Death". We hope that this will lead to a continuation of the downward trend we have recently seen. Since 1979, the Government have spent £3·8 million on research into sudden infant death and respiratory distress syndromes through the Medical Research Council.