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Volume 706: debated on Monday 8 December 2008


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in light of World AIDS Day, what further action they are taking to assist those in the poorest countries affected by HIV/AIDS.

My Lords, on World AIDS Day the UK Government launched a monitoring and evaluation document to help us to evaluate the impact of the AIDS strategy launched in June, which included commitments of £6 billion to strengthen health systems and services and £200 million for social protection programmes, in addition to the £1 billion previously committed for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. We also announced a package of £15 million to help to revitalise and reinvigorate South Africa’s AIDS response under the leadership of the new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply and for DfID’s work in this area. There are now almost 12 million children orphaned by AIDS, which is double the number of only about seven years ago. How can we ensure that, despite economic recession, the needs of such children are not forgotten? Does he recognise not only the moral case here but also that the very stability of some of these countries and their communities may be undermined unless there is extremely strong international support at this time?

My Lords, the UK remains firmly committed to meeting the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. We will work to ensure that national plans of action are systematically integrated into national health education and social protection plans. Over the next three years, the UK will expand its social protection programmes to over £200 million, which will be channelled through both government and non-government organisations. On the second two points, the answer is basically that we agree. We recognise the importance of maintaining the momentum in this and other DfID areas. As my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown said in the debate on Thursday, the Prime Minister repeated his commitment a month ago to overseas development assistance reaching 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013. This has been echoed by the International Development Secretary and continues to be supported on all sides of the House.

My Lords, what is the Government’s view of the use of generic drugs in the poorest countries, which has reduced the price of the antiviral treatment to about $700 a year?

My Lords, we totally support it. We support the international efforts and the publication of information about such generics to help countries to understand their opportunities. We work with other countries to make sure that both generic drugs and developing drugs become affordable in the countries where they are needed.

My Lords, it is recognised that faith leaders can have a great impact on the practice of communities. I have personal experience of South Africa, Mozambique and Angola and I have listened to a South African Anglican bishop powerfully preaching to a congregation about HIV/AIDS. Yet less than 5 per cent of the global fund for HIV/AIDS has been directed to faith-based groups. What are the Government and DfID doing to support faith groups in delivering programmes in partnership with government and to analyse the effectiveness of current AIDS spending to engage more effectively with the problem?

My Lords, I do not have specific information on the extent to which we help faith-based groups. Most of our money in DfID is spent through country programmes, which are focused where they can be most effective. Certainly, where a faith-based group helps in such a programme, we would co-operate with it.

My Lords, considering that children with HIV/AIDS are 40 times more likely to contract pneumococcal disease, a family of diseases that kills 1.6 million a year, will the Government consider integrating pneumococcal disease into their strategy and giving it the same prominence as they do malaria and TB, in consultation with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and its initiative PneumoADIP, which promotes this strategy?

My Lords, the simple answer is yes. We entirely take the point that pneumococcal disease should be considered alongside the three other killers. We are supporting the organisations that the noble Lord mentioned.

My Lords, it costs less than £1 to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. What particular steps are the Government taking to ensure that these vital drugs reach pregnant women? In 98 per cent of cases that treatment can mean that they do not pass on the virus to their children, yet only about 10 per cent of pregnant women get these antiviral drugs.

My Lords, we share the view that transmission from mother to child is crucial and we are featuring that in all our country programmes. The whole programme is built around prevention, treatment, care and support. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission is crucial and has our full support in country programmes.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned prevention. This country has been doing research into various barrier creams and preventives, which would be of great benefit to the whole world. What progress is being made? Are we continuing that research and are we anywhere near an answer?

My Lords, the area into which we are putting particular efforts is microbicides, which we think will have a key effect. We are involved with and support trials. Microbicides are particularly effective for women, because HIV/AIDS is becoming a feminine disease, particularly among heterosexual communities. We have funded this to the extent of £50 million and we will carry on funding it. Unfortunately, we fear that it may be as much as three years before we start to see some positive results from those trials.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister a practical question, which follows on from the earlier question about delivery and about children in particular? Everyone is aware that dealing with this area is one of Save the Children’s most fundamental tasks; its people in this field in deprived areas are perhaps those who are working in the most positive way. In what ways are the Government working alongside such agencies, which already have much expertise, rather than having to create our own?

My Lords, we universally try not to reinvent programmes that are serving these countries well. Our money will mostly go into programmes that are already there. In general, we do not invent programmes centrally; we support country commitment, civil society and Governments in those countries that are being effective.