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World AIDS Day

Volume 650: debated on Wednesday 5 December 2018

Saturday 1 December marked the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. It is remarkable how different the global outlook is for people living with HIV in 2018 than it was in 1988. People can live full lives with HIV, as the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) demonstrated so poignantly on 28 November.

We have a lot to be proud of. The UK has now become one of the first countries to meet the United Nations’ 90-90-90 targets. We have demonstrated what is possible if the right services and support are in place, and when stigma and discrimination are challenged.

Globally, huge progress has been made—new HIV infections have halved since their peak in 1996. The UK has played a leading role since the beginning of the epidemic—helping to stop unnecessary AIDS-related deaths, preventing new HIV infections and investing in game-changing research and technology.

However, the end of AIDS is still not in sight. In 2017, nearly 1 million people died of AIDS, and one quarter of HIV positive people still do not know their status. We must continue to expand testing services, get more people on life-saving treatment, and address the structural issues that cause people to become infected.

That is why DFID remains one of the biggest donors to the HIV epidemic. Through our current £1.2 billion investment in the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, UK Aid is expanding access to life saving HIV treatment and supporting countries to respond to their own epidemics.

In 2017 alone, UK Aid helped the global fund partnership to provide 17.5 million people with antiretroviral therapy and protect nearly 700,000 babies from being infected by their mothers. Furthermore, our 20-year agreement with Unitaid and ongoing support to the Clinton health access initiative has given the world great advancements in HIV testing and treatment, at affordable costs.

However, the HIV epidemic is complex and cannot be addressed fully with standalone programmes—that is why DFID is delivering an integrated approach. We support the integration of HIV with TB services and signed up to the political declaration at the high level meeting on TB at UNGA 2018, which includes ambitious targets on increasing access to preventative treatments for people living with both TB and HIV. We are also ensuring HIV is included in DFID’s health systems strengthening work, and we have embedded HIV within DFID’s education policy, humanitarian policy and our 2018 strategic vision for gender equality.

HIV and AIDS disproportionately affects women and adolescent girls. AIDS is still, shockingly, the biggest killer of women of reproductive age around the world, and every week around 7,000 young women are infected with HIV. To bring down HIV infections, we must continue to fight for gender equality, stop violence against women and girls and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In places where DFID does not provide aid, we are advocating for public health evidence and human rights. The failure of some countries to address their HIV epidemics is political, not financial. Discrimination against “key populations”—LGBT people, injecting drug users, sex workers, prisoners—drives worrying HIV infection rates in some parts of the world.

As a nation committed to global values, we are championing equality overseas. The UK Government support civil society to challenge harmful policies and attitudes that exclude minorities and put them at greater risk of HIV infection. In July, we announced a £6 million uplift to the Robert Carr civil society networks fund to support grassroots organisations to combat HIV stigma, demand their rights and increase access to HIV services for key populations.

The UK Government are playing a leading role as we strive to reach the sustainable development goal to end AIDS by 2030. On this World AIDS Day, while we commemorate the lives affected by HIV and AIDS, we are also inspired to accelerate our efforts.

From 3 December, DFID is pleased to be joining forces with the Department of Health and Social Care, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Evening Standard for the “AIDS-free Christmas Appeal”. Through UK Aid Match, the UK Government will double public donations of up to £2 million for projects in Maputo and Nairobi—we will help these cities to achieve their own 90-90-90 goals, as we have so proudly done in the UK.