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Women and Girls: HIV

Volume 767: debated on Tuesday 1 December 2015

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to incorporate HIV as a priority in their work to improve the lives of women and girls, given that HIV is the biggest killer of women of reproductive age globally and of adolescents in Africa.

My Lords, every two minutes an adolescent girl is infected with HIV, which is of course unacceptable. We are therefore proud to be the second largest funder of HIV prevention, care and treatment and have pledged up to £1 billion to the Global Fund. Nearly 60% of the fund’s resources are invested in programmes that reach women and girls.

My Lords, one of the most common dangers of mainstreaming an issue is the potential lack of focus. Can the Minister assure the House that any reduction in HIV-specific DfID programming will not result in reduced resourcing or reduced focus on HIV?

My Lords, yes, I can reassure the noble Lord that integration is at the core of DfID’s approach. Our bilateral programmes work with Governments and civil society to ensure that HIV programmes are delivered within an integrated health service for women, girls and beyond. I am sure the noble Lord will be pleased that, with UK support, we have reached 3.1 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. A lot is going on within the programming.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise—I am sure she does—that the Global Fund has been transformative in tackling HIV/AIDS? If she recognises that, how will the Government ensure that their Ross fund on infectious disease, which they announced last week, will complement rather than compete with the Global Fund?

Of course we recognise the great strength of the Global Fund, but we are also excited about the Ross fund, a £1 billion research initiative that will focus on malaria and other infectious diseases. At this moment, I do not have enough detail of the initiative to tell the noble Baroness more but, as always, I am open to her speaking to me about it once I have more details.

My Lords, while it is obviously appropriate today to focus on the very large populations with HIV outside this country, will the noble Baroness agree that it is important that we remember that HIV/AIDS is a public health issue in this country, where there are groups that are significantly at risk? Could she therefore encourage her colleagues to make sure that as, for example, funds to local authorities reduce, public health campaigning towards getting people tested and ensuring that treatment is available does not diminish?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to bring the question back home. It is a mandatory duty for local authorities to ensure that the services are available and accessible to those who require them. If the noble Baroness would like further detail on that, I will be more than happy to write to her.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is well aware that many young people and young people’s organisations are active in advocacy, on both the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, and they are, of course, very well placed to influence those most at risk. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to support the work of young people in this field?

My Lords, the noble Lord and I enjoyed a very good session earlier today at which we listened to very eloquent testimonials from three young people who are not only living and dealing with HIV infection themselves but doing the broader work they are trying to deliver for others. It is important that, through the work I do with my department, DfID, and the FCO, we collectively ensure that we are engaged with all organisations across the civil society base and Government to Government.

The new UN sustainable development goals set a target of eliminating the AIDS pandemic by 2030. How is DfID planning to achieve that target?

My Lords, my noble friend is right: we want to see the pandemic eliminated by 2030. We know that we are a long way from achieving that but we have to do so. When I answered an earlier question, I alluded to the need to focus very much on low-income, high-burden countries that are unable to self-finance. We have to make treatment accessible to the very people who need it and who do not always know the best route to it. We are working with our partners globally, through all the various institutions, to try to eliminate HIV infections by 2030.

My Lords, turning to the Answer to the Question from my noble friend, my understanding is that public health funding is being cut. Therefore, can the Minister explain how the Government will ensure that local authorities meet the duties that she spelled out?

My Lords, I think I made it clear in my earlier response that local authorities have a mandatory duty to ensure that those services are accessible.