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Tuberculosis Programmes

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

2. What funding his Department provides to support national tuberculosis programmes in high-burden countries. (303266)

The United Kingdom remains strongly committed to reducing death and suffering from tuberculosis and sees it as an important part of the global effort to improve the health of the poor. Our focus is the delivery of the global plan to stop TB, which aims to save 14 million lives. My Department combats TB through our contributions to multilateral organisations such as the World Health Organisation, partnerships such as Stop TB and the Global Fund, our bilateral programmes and our support for research.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Given that TB is a lead cause of death among those living with HIV, what proportion of that funding goes into supporting integrated services for people with TB and HIV, and what monitoring does his Department carry out on the impact of such funding?

The hon. Lady is absolutely correct to point out the clear links between tuberculosis and HIV. Some 15 per cent. of new TB cases are among people living with HIV/AIDS. That is why we are looking to invest £6 billion to 2015 in whole-health systems and services, so that we can get diagnosis and treatment not just for people with TB or HIV/AIDS, but for people with a range of health problems.

Although I welcome the Minister’s reply, may I draw to his attention the fact that the World Health Organisation has indicated that only six out of 10 smear-positive tests are being undertaken, even though the problems are increasing? Does he agree that we should use all our influence to ensure that new diagnostic tools are used wherever that is possible?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out the need for the speedy diagnosis of TB. That is why I am pleased to say that we as a Department have committed to giving some €60 million a year to UNITAID, which is aiming to triple access to rapid tests for multi-drug resistant TB by 2011.

Given the Select Committee on International Development’s criticism of the Government’s failure to act on the interaction between HIV and not just tuberculosis, but malaria and other diseases, and given also the fact that his Department has informed the Committee that it collects data only every two years, can the Minister give the House a positive assurance that we will see full transparency on the issue, full performance measurements, an impact assessment and an emphasis on outputs, and not just financial inputs, which is the Government’s norm on such problems?

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman that our focus is on inputs and not outputs. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would point out that if we are going to get the information that he requires in detail, it would mean health workers who provide primary care on a range of issues having to break down how they spend their time diagnosing TB on the one hand and, on the other, malaria, treating people with extreme forms of diarrhoea, and so on. The best thing that we can do is support whole-health systems to improve the health of a nation, particularly through an emphasis on primary care. That is what our £6 billion commitment is all about.

What more can my hon. Friend do to increase international support for UNITAID and its ambition to increase accessibility to low-cost drugs for TB, malaria and AIDS, especially as yesterday was world AIDS day?

I am proud of my Department’s record, with its contribution to investment in health, and UNITAID in particular. Next year’s mid-term review of the millennium development goals might be an opportunity for our international partners to look at their contributions to development and perhaps take the opportunity to step up to the plate.