Photo of David Cairns

David Cairns (Inverclyde, Labour)

The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. I think that it was my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson, when he was Secretary of State for Health, who introduced automatic testing in pregnancy. If we look at the graph, we see that the tail-off is quite astonishing: once opt-out testing was introduced for pregnant women, the numbers of babies being born HIV-positive plummeted.

Of course, the issue is not just about babies. Quite often when we are talking about the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, we focus on the baby, but a woman is involved as well. As the hon. Lady rightly says, if a woman's own HIV-positive status has been diagnosed at the beginning of pregnancy, she can be put on the correct course of ARVs. That is why, in the northern world, mother-to-child transmission has been, if not completely eliminated, massively reduced- because not only ARVs but the correct education about breastfeeding are making an enormous difference. However, almost 500,000 babies born in Africa every year are HIV-positive. That is completely preventable-entirely avoidable. If pregnant women are tested and put on ARVs, they do not need to pass on the virus. It is one of the great scandals of our age that something that is solvable-we have solved it here-could be solved throughout the world with the correct financial support and the political will, but it has not been.

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