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Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2008

3. What progress has been made in halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS globally by 2015 in accordance with millennium development goal 7. (202412)

Progress is being made in the international effort to tackle HIV and AIDS. There has, for example, been a significant scaling up in the level of financial assistance to tackle the epidemic, and the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment in poor countries has risen from 400,000 to more than 2 million. There is, however, a lot more to do.

Will the Minister take this opportunity to distance himself from the more weird and wacky groups that are suggesting that abstinence is the only way to combat HIV/AIDS in parts of the world? Will he also take the opportunity to tell the House that as many moneys will go via voluntary organisations and non-governmental organisations as will go through some of the dubious central Governments who operate in the areas most afflicted by HIV/AIDS?

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we do not support abstinence-only programmes for HIV prevention, because none of the available evidence suggests that such programmes are an effective strategy for HIV prevention. He raised a point about the valuable contribution that voluntary sector organisations make. I have had the privilege of seeing some of the work that Christian Aid supports in southern Africa, so I take his point about the need for us to continue to work with the voluntary sector. I hope that he will recognise that where we can have confidence in the commitment of Governments to preventing HIV and AIDS, we should continue to help them scale up their ability to tackle AIDS in their countries.

Will the Department’s forthcoming AIDS strategy continue to contain a dedicated funding target for AIDS, and will a percentage of that funding be allocated to supporting vulnerable children and orphans, as happens today?

The reason why the strategy is forthcoming is that there is still work to do on its preparation, so I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a preview of what it will contain. One of the reasons why we included specific targets when we published our previous AIDS strategy in July 2004 was to generate significant new political momentum behind the effort to fight AIDS in general and the AIDS orphans crisis. I hope that he will recognise, from the research that he has done, that political momentum behind the fight against AIDS has increased significantly and that much greater effort is being put into tackling the specific problems faced by AIDS orphans.

Although it is recognised that there are many health-related problems in the developing world, does my hon. Friend agree that when money is specifically targeted at preventing HIV/AIDS and reversing that trend in that area, it should be spent on tackling HIV/AIDS and not on other health-related issues?

We need to do both. We must ensure not only that we continue to help tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but, as the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Helen Southworth) indicated, that we do more to tackle a range of other health conditions. We cannot fight AIDS without more health workers—more doctors and more nurses—in-country, and we cannot tackle infant and child mortality without there being more health workers in place. We need to do more to tackle the specific problems associated with HIV/AIDS, but we must also ensure that our response to HIV/AIDS helps to tackle those broader health questions.

Does the Minister accept that on the continent of Africa where HIV/AIDS is a particularly acute problem, as well as education, the other key area is the elimination of corruption, so that the resources deployed can reach those at risk in certain nation states?

We have had many exchanges in the House about the difficulties that corruption causes for Governments who want to help the poorest people in their countries. That is why we have a considerable number of safeguards to help to ensure that our money is spent effectively and goes where it is needed, and to help developing countries to build up their own defences against corruption. I agree that we need to continue to do more in that area.

The hon. Gentleman is also right to say that we must do more to promote education, especially girls’ education and access to primary education more generally. That is one of the reasons why my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have made the commitment to an £8.5 billion investment over the next 10 years from the UK to seek to achieve those objectives.