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Volume 471: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2008

4. Whether his Department’s strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS in developing countries includes measures to support children orphaned, or made vulnerable, by that condition. (182972)

Children, including those orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, are at the heart of the UK’s strategy for tackling the epidemic and its effect in the developing world. We are committed to spending £150 million to help meet their needs over the three years to 2008.

I welcome my hon. Friend to her new position, which I am sure she will find rewarding. It is a very important role. Is she aware that the non-governmental organisations that work on these issues particularly want to see the UK devote 10 per cent. of its funding stream on HIV/AIDS to support for orphans and vulnerable children? Furthermore, they want Government systems to improve to make sure that the aid gets to the orphans. What assurances can she give those NGOs?

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words of welcome. She is a tireless campaigner on this issue; just last week, she met my predecessor to discuss it. I assure the House that following the public consultation on the UK’s strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS in the developing world, we will continue to work and build on what works best so that the needs and rights of orphans and vulnerable children remain absolutely central as we move forward to tackle the issue.

Will the hon. Lady, whom we congratulate on her promotion, look carefully at the valuable report produced by Business Action for Africa, and note the enormous importance of business and the private sector in the fight against HIV/AIDS—a recognition that has not always been part of the Minister’s Department’s DNA?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for welcoming me to my post and look forward to working with him and his team. I certainly agree about the importance of economic development and growth in combating HIV/AIDS and I look forward to considering the report to which he refers.

My right hon. Friend the leader of the Conservative party and I have been pressing for clear, interim targets for scaling up access to HIV prevention and treatment. Some 93 countries have now set such targets and 60 have developed national action plans. Does the Minister accept that, without those targets, we will miss the goal of universal access by 2010? Will she ensure that her Department encourages all developing countries to set such targets and develop those plans?

I assure the House that we lead the world towards achieving universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010. We remain firmly committed to that goal. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will remember that the UK has made an unprecedented, long-term commitment of £1 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Indeed, in wanting to strengthen health care systems across the world, our Prime Minister launched the international health partnership initiative in September last year to improve the co-ordination of donors working on health and to support countries to develop better health care systems.

My hon. Friend will know that accessing health care sometimes depends on being literate. In many developing countries, the level of literacy is incredibly low. In the measures that she is proposing, will my hon. Friend ensure that, as well as the provision of registered sister nurses, there is some incentive to improve literacy in those countries?

I certainly share my hon. Friend’s views; a boost to education is the most effective and cost-effective means of HIV prevention. We promote that as a major part of our international work in addition to improving people’s knowledge, changing their attitude and behaviour, giving women more control over their own lives and promoting the availability and use of condoms.