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HIV (Maternal Transmission)

Volume 518: debated on Wednesday 17 November 2010

4. What steps he is taking to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in developing countries by 2015. (24339)

11. What steps his Department is taking to support the UNAIDS goal to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. (24346)

The Government are committed to a comprehensive approach to eliminating paediatric AIDS by focusing on where we have a comparative advantage—that is, on primary prevention of HIV among women of child-bearing age and on prevention of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV through our investments in family planning.

Does the Minister agree that it is important that children who have already contracted HIV should be able to access medicines to stay alive? If so, will he join me in calling on pharmaceutical companies to make their patents available to the patent pool, so that there can be affordable HIV drugs for children?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Government definitely support the UNITAID patent pool, which is, as he knows, a mechanism to facilitate the development of new, particularly fixed-dose combination drugs, partly to ward off the danger of monotherapies. That can be a key means of addressing the treatment challenge. We welcome UNITAID’s decision to create a separate foundation to manage the pool’s activities, and we recognise that that is an important step. We now need the milestones to be put in place as rapidly as possible, so that we can convert it to a working programme going forward.

We believe that about 1.4 million pregnant women globally are infected with HIV, and about 1,000 babies are infected every day. We also believe that worldwide funding for HIV treatment is on the decline. Will the Government commit to making a strong contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and also to prioritising not just keeping those pregnant women alive, but taking steps to prevent those babies from being infected?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. I know from the number of her questions that I have answered that she takes a keen interest in these issues. The UK has been a good supporter of the global fund to date, and its replenishment is subject to current negotiations and the multilateral aid review.

On the hon. Lady’s particular concern, the reproductive, maternal and newborn health business plan is the coalition Government’s key mechanism to prioritise the health of women and babies. It will support service delivery across the continuum of care needed to improve the health of women and girls, and will scale up the prevention of mother-to-child transmission—PMTCT—of HIV. That will address the underlying causes of the AIDS epidemic, gender inequality, gender-based violence and poverty. We will certainly—

Order. I am grateful, but the Minister must cut it short. Work needs to be done on these things. The answers are often far too long.

As the Minister said, the current Government strongly support, as did the previous Government, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. What is the Minister’s assessment of the success of the country co-ordinating mechanisms, and particularly the efforts to ensure that co-infection of HIV and TB is well managed on a country basis?

The hon. Gentleman makes an informed point. One way of ensuring that the global fund, which scores well on its effectiveness, gets even better is to ensure that when there are conflicts in the country co-ordinating mechanisms, they are addressed. The co-infection of HIV and TB is an increasingly well understood area of research and practice, and that understanding is shaping the programmes through the multilateral aid review, and will therefore inform those programmes going forward.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what his Department is doing to support the Glion call to action, whereby consensus has been reached on the importance of family planning in preventing the spread of HIV, particularly maternal transmission from mother to child?

My hon. Friend makes the vital point that family planning is at the heart of ensuring that we prevent the transmission of these diseases. I assure him that we are putting women’s and children’s health at the core of our international development agenda, and will contribute to saving the lives of at least 50,000 women and 250,000 babies, and to providing 10 million more couples with access to family planning.