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HIV/AIDS: G8 Agreement

Volume 687: debated on Thursday 30 November 2006

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What progress has been made to fulfil the agreement made at the 2005 G8 conference in Gleneagles to ensure that all those who have need for access to treatment for AIDS do so by 2010.

My Lords, following the G8 agreement, in June this year the UN General Assembly agreed the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010. Countries pledged to set ambitious national targets, including interim targets for 2008. So far, 84 countries have provided targets, 44 of them covering prevention, treatment and care. These plans need to be reviewed so that the international community, with partner governments, can fund effective national plans.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply and for her and DfID’s commitment to fighting this disease. However, despite the Gleneagles pledge, there is already a shortfall of $8 billion and 80 per cent of adults and 95 per cent of children do not have access to treatment. Does she agree that that is catastrophic in terms of the social, economic and human impact of the disease? Does she further agree that the G8 needs to bring forward a plan detailing exactly when, by whom and how the funding gap will be closed so that all have access to treatment by 2010?

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to ensure that there are national plans and that they are fully costed and funded. This year, the UN made a commitment that no plans which were costed and effective in covering prevention and care would remain unfunded. That remains our commitment. They have to be national plans, which are then reviewed and supported through the international community. We have made good progress, with 84 plans in place and 44 of them covering the range. We will have to keep up the pressure, but the commitment has to be to those national plans rather than to one global international plan.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the main problems in dealing with AIDS is fear and discrimination, which tend to deter people, particularly women, from coming forward so that they miss out on treatment which could save their lives? While some notable leaders in Africa, such as Nelson Mandela and Kenneth Kaunda, have bravely acknowledged AIDS in their own families, there is much more that we could all do to try to remove discrimination.

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. We need to tackle the stigma of those living with HIV/AIDS. That is the focus of the DfID campaign for tomorrow, which is World AIDS Day. The stigma and discrimination, of course, affect those who are most vulnerable. We must challenge people’s attitudes towards those living with HIV/AIDS, challenge discrimination and promote and protect human rights in policy and legislation. DfID is supporting approximately 100 projects and programmes, many of which aim to change people’s attitudes.

My Lords, I congratulate DfID on the work that it has done. In an area like global warming, the Government rightly place emphasis on this country setting an example at home. Does the Minister think that the lack of effective campaigning on HIV/AIDS and sexual health in the United Kingdom and the cutting back of promised funding is the right way to show commitment to the worldwide battle?

My Lords, the Government are in fact leading the way. The noble Lord may know that my colleague in the Department of Health launched a campaign this month looking at HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. We are investing substantial additional resources in sexual health—it is one of the six key priorities for the NHS in 2006-07—but there continue to be issues about the funding of the campaign in the longer term. We are seeking to review the impact of the campaign, which was launched only on 20 November, and we shall then look at what more needs to be done as regards our campaigning priorities.

My Lords, following on from the previous question, is the Minister aware that the number of people in the UK with HIV/AIDS is still increasing? Many of those people are very poor and are having difficulties.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. In 2005, there were 7,450 new diagnoses. That is only a small increase from 2003, but it is more than double the number of diagnoses in 2000. Nearly three-quarters of those newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS probably acquired infections on the African continent. We must look at that link and our work on the African continent is clearly important. On poverty, we will continue to support those families and individuals.

My Lords, do the Government acknowledge that the Ugandan campaign of AVC has been highly successful in reducing from 31 per cent to 5 per cent the incidence of HIV/AIDS among pregnant women? Would the Government seek to support such a campaign?

My Lords, the noble Lord knows that we support a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. That includes not only looking at abstinence, but also recognising the reality of people’s sexual practice and dealing with it, and looking at the support that must be given to the health sector overall as well as treatment, vaccination and so on.

My Lords, the number of children in Africa with HIV/AIDS is not the major issue but it is still an important and difficult one. To what extent are the Government giving it attention and are they pressing drug companies to pay sufficient attention to it in the treatments offered?

My Lords, we are looking at the issue of children and also at the issue of women and transmission between women and children. Last year, we organised a global partners forum on children affected by HIV/AIDS and we are pressing the drugs companies on this point. We need a different kind of treatment for children than for adults.