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HIV and the G8

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

The Petition of members of City Gate Church, Brighton,

Declares that almost every minute of every day a baby is born with HIV, and that almost all of these babies are born in the world’s poorest countries; further declares that nine out of ten of all new HIV infections in children are as a direct result of mother to child transmission; further declares that the impact of HIV on infants is appalling and that without specialised treatment half will not live to see their second birthday; notes that in a number of countries, HIV and AIDs is the number one cause of death in under-five year olds.

Further declares that in rich countries the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies has been virtually eliminated due to the availability of health care and the right drugs; notes, however, that in many low-income countries pregnant women and their babies are not receiving the same degree of care and protection; further notes that despite efforts to increase coverage of services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, figures from 2006 show that in low-income countries only one in five pregnant women with HIV had access to the necessary antiretroviral drugs to protect their babies.

Further notes that this shortfall is now attracting global attention and that in 2007 leaders at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm recognised the importance of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV and promised 1.5 billion dollars to provide access to services for all pregnant women; and believes that the UK has a key role to play in turning this G8 commitment into reality.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to outline how it intends to contribute to G8 commitments on preventing mother to child transmission of HIV, and to encourage other G8 countries to take similar action.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Lepper, Official Report, 18 May 2009; Vol. 492, c. 1315 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for International Development:

I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that we must continue to address the devastating impact that HIV is having on children in developing countries. The latest Universal Access report1 shows encouraging trends in the expansion of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services for women and children. However, the world is still far from providing anti-retro viral treatment (ARV) to 80 per cent. of HIV positive pregnant women by 20102. By 2007 only 34 per cent. of HIV positive pregnant women in low and middle income countries received treatment so much remains to be done. Working with others at national and international level, the UK is strongly committed to strengthening efforts to scale up PMTCT services.

The petition rightly acknowledges that mother to child transmission of HIV has been virtually eliminated in developed countries. This is because in these countries, women of reproductive age have access to high quality family planning and maternity care services into which HIV prevention, treatment and care has been integrated. DFID will continue to work to ensure that women in poor countries have the same choices and opportunities.

Scaling up PMTCT services requires effective health systems. This is why DFID helps to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV through our support to health systems’ strengthening. In June 2008 the UK published a new AIDS Strategy which commits us to spending £6 billion up to 2015 to support the strengthening of health systems for improved health and HIV outcomes. The updated Strategy also commits the UK to work with others to reduce the unmet need for family planning by 50 per cent. by 2010 and eliminate unmet need by 2015.

In Zambia DFID is providing £5.5 million to support a multi-sectoral response to tackling HIV which includes support for PMTCT. And in Zimbabwe DFID is providing £25 million to support a programme which addresses maternal and newborn health, including HIV. This and similar work supported by DFID in our focus Public Service Agreement (PSA) countries is achieving significant results. The estimated percentage of HIV positive pregnant women who received ARVs for prevention of mother to child transmission increased in many African countries between 2004 and 2007, for example in Ghana from 1 per cent to 21 per cent., in Malawi from 4 per cent. to 32 per cent. and in Uganda from 9 per cent. to 34 per cent.

We are working with bilateral and multilateral partners to ensure that the Gleneagles G8 Summit commitment to provide universal access to treatment, prevention and care is implemented. This was reaffirmed by the G8 at Heiligendamm in 2007 where commitments that will significantly assist in funding and developing national AIDS plans were made. This included the provision of long-term predictable funding to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The UK has since committed £1 billion to the Fund in support of countries' comprehensive national plans to address the AIDS epidemic. We have been working to ensure that the G8 Summit at L'Aquila delivers a much stronger framework for G8 countries to be held accountable for their commitments on global health, including HIV. Through the High Level Task Force for Innovative International Financing for Health Systems, which the Prime Minister co-chairs, we are also leading efforts to secure additional resources to help countries build the stronger health systems required to make durable progress on maternal and newborn mortality, including through enhanced access to PMTCT services.

We provide core funding to UNICEF and other UN agencies (WHO, UNAIDS) working to end mother to child transmission of HIV. In addition to core funding, DFID has provided more than US$1.5 million to an “Accelerating Action for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS” programme. This gives focus to the “4 Ps - Protection, Prevention, PMTCT and Paediatric AIDS”. We are also participating in a US-led HIV and AIDS paediatric public-private partnership which seeks to develop formulations of HIV drugs suitable for children in developing countries, together with the pharmaceutical industry.

More recently, DFID has become a member of the Inter-agency Task Team on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (co-convened by UNICEF and WHO).

And on 21 May we held a consultation with UK stakeholders in collaboration with the AIDS Consortium to discuss ways to accelerate the scale-up of PMTCT services.

Through our prominent position on the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in developing countries and engagement in international fora, we will continue to show leadership and to advocate for joint action in this vital area.

1Progress towards Universal Access report, UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, 2008.

2This is the international target set by the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in 2001.