[Sir Nicholas Winterton in the Chair] — HIV/AIDS

– in Westminster Hall at 12:00 am on 11th May 2006.

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[Relevant Documents: First Report from the International Development Committee, Session 2005—06, HC 708 and the Government's response thereto, First Special Report, Session 2005—06, HC 922.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Claire Ward.]

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Thank you for that encouraging introduction, Sir Nicholas. It is genuinely a pleasure and a privilege to present the International Development Committee's first report of this Session, which, appropriately, we published on world AIDS day.

The Committee was extremely appreciative of the international community's commitment to eradicate AIDS. When we published the report, however, it was clear that the international community's first target—getting 3 million people on treatment by 2005 as part of the "3 by 5" campaign—would be missed. I have no intention of delaying hon. Members by quoting from the report, which they can all read, but I shall pick up a couple of points to which I hope the Minister can respond.

The Committee had quite a debate about how to achieve the 2010 target progressively, and Mr. Hunt will have something to say about interim targets if he catches your eye, Sir Nicholas. We recommended that the Department consider including a target on access to treatment when formulating the public service agreement for the next comprehensive spending review, which is currently under discussion, and I would be interested to hear what progress the Minister can report.

We identified a particular problem with the treatment of children. There is not enough investment in paediatric antiretroviral drugs—the issue was raised at International Development questions yesterday—and the pharmaceutical companies have no real commercial interest in the issue, although the international community, the children and their families do have an interest in it. However, the relevant drugs, where they exist, are up to six times more expensive than equivalent adult treatments and are not designed for children. Antibiotics are also not always appropriately targeted at children with HIV/AIDS. Again, we would be anxious to hear what progress has been made on that.

The witnesses who came before the Committee raised several issues, and the Government addressed them in their reply. Although I accept withoutdemur the Government's real commitment to putting resources into tackling the problem and their determination to meet the end target, there was concern about a possible mismatch between the Department's global ambition and individual out-turns in different countries. The Government rightly respond that it is up to each country to set its targets, but they are the major provider of support in many countries, and we are looking for a partnership. We expect the Department to be able to define its targets progressively so that we can monitor how well we are doing. We do not want to reach the end of the process, only to find that we have missed targets, when we could have identified the problem earlier and taken appropriate action.

My last point relates to the role of the International Monetary Fund. I raise it because the Government agreed with us, and particularly because their policy is to use budget support as a major way of funding recipient countries. Some glib things are said about the IMF, but the fund and the World Bank are major institutions, which operate in a much more complex fashion than some of the more simplistic arguments might suggest. Nevertheless, there is concern that the IMF, in its overall policy of trying to ensure that countries operate within a sound financial framework, may inhibit the diversion of resources to deal with the AIDS problem in a particular country. The Government agreed that that was a cause for concern and hoped that the IMF would not do that.

A comment from the Minister would be helpful on how our role in providing budget support can come alongside the IMF or act as a buffer between the two. If we provide a country with money specifically to achieve its own HIV/AIDS target, presumably there is no reason why the IMF should try in any way to interfere with that.

The international community has set itself ambitious targets. Our Government are committed to being one of the leading contributors in tackling the problem and I am sure that the House is looking for leadership from the Department for International Development, as I am sure is the international community in many ways, although there are one or two contentious aspects of that to which I shall come later.

The Committee published the report at the end of last year and there have obviously been continuing developments. The statistics are still serious and the Committee had a chance to make visits, particularly to Africa where we saw some of the issues at first hand. Interestingly, we visited Botswana and the Botswana programme was mentioned in the House yesterday. What we saw was impressive in one sense. It is one of the richest, least corrupt, most competent and most well-run countries in Africa. However, it has one of the highest incidences of AIDS, and if it does not deal with that it will cease to be one of the most successful and dynamic countries in Africa. We saw an impressive hospital, which provides impressive treatment, encourages people to come in and reaches out to provide treatment throughout the country. However, two or three issues arose which I think are worth recording.

The first, which is obvious, is that when a huge amount of resources go into dealing with one major problem such as HIV/AIDS, which requires the combined commitment of health resources, clearly other health problems fall down the pecking order. One point of concern is that it is diverting a huge health resource from other problems in the country, which are receiving attention but not the same attention as would otherwise be the case. Botswana is a rich country and the problems are multiplied in poorer countries.

The second issue is that in subsequent meetings with representatives of the Government and Government agencies we asked some probing questions about what was being done to reach some of the prime victims and problem areas, particularly homosexual men and those engaged in sex traffic and the sex trade. The answers were a little disturbing to say the least. In a nutshell, we were told that such activities are illegal, and the clear implication was that there is no programme to reach those people, despite the fact that they are a prime source of the problem.

Someone in the diplomatic community—I shall not identify them—said that in the process of employing a domestic member of staff they asked about her health, to which she said: "I understand what you are talking about and my health is fine. I have been tested and I am negative. However, my husband works in the mines in South Africa so he is away for weeks on end and I have no idea what he gets up to, but when he comes home he expects me to behave as any wife would so how long I will stay in that condition is indeterminate." That raises another issue: the sharply rising incidence of AIDS among women and girls and the fact that they have much less control over circumstances than they should. They need to be empowered to enable them to take more positive control over the situation.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I agree, as so often, with everything that the hon. Gentleman has so far said. May I support and reinforce his observation about targets? Its importance seems to be underlined by what he has just said about the attitude of particular states to personal behaviour. Does he not agree that the Government need to take care not to overdo localism and decentralisation? If we are providing money, we are entitled to stipulate in some measure of detail what we expect by way of its effective use. In respect of disaggregation, does he not agree that it should not be necessary continually to press the World Health Organisation for disaggregation of data? What is the rocket science? It ought to be done.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and more will be said about that.

It would be fair to say that there was not entire agreement on the Committee—although there was no fundamental division—about the exact role of targets. However, we agreed that we needed to quantify what we were doing and pull it back together. One cannot leave these things to every country and hope that that combination will deliver what we have set. We agree about the objective, even if we have not focused on how best to achieve it. That is about attitudes.

There are some issues surrounding a survey that was conducted in South Africa about people's knowledge and behaviour in relation to AIDS. It produced two or three disturbing statistics. Many answers represented what one would expect, and people's knowledge was clear. However, one statement was:

"You can reduce the risk of HIV by having fewer sexual partners."

Although 67.3 per cent. of both sexes agreed with that, 24.4 per cent. did not agree, which is an alarmingly high figure.

Within the survey, we also received an indication that the percentage of young women and men who have had sex before age 15 is high—on average about 25 per cent. It seems to be true of many affected countries. The other statement that was highlighted was that the percentage of young women and men aged 15 to 24 reporting the use of a condom the last time that they had sex with a non-marital and non-co-habiting sexual partner was 69 per cent.

In the context of Botswana, that statistic raises a contentious issue. Although DFID is supporting Botswana through the Southern African Development Community, we do not have a heavy engagement programme, because it is a middle-income country. As a consequence, the Americans are heavily involved in Botswana. The Gates Foundation is fine, but the President's Fund is not quite so fine, because the American contribution through the President's Fund places a heavy emphasis on abstinence and moralising. The statistics demonstrate that a significant number of people will not be reached by that approach. I know that the British Government do not share that approach, but if we are not there, for example, there are problems because we leave the field clear. When we are there together with the Americans, there is tension.

Although none of us has a problem with the basic idea that people should be encouraged to be monogamous, an over-moralising attitude will not reach many people. As the Secretary of State precisely and starkly said yesterday, we do not agree with the American position; and, as he put it, people should not die because they have sex—even in circumstances in which people disapprove of the fact that they have had it. If we are trying to deal with the problem on that scale, we must be realistic and we must engage robustly with those who tell us otherwise.

That approach did not work with drugs. The "Just say no" campaign has not stopped the advance of drug abuse, and it will not stop the advance of HIV/AIDS. Prevention is as important as cure, although our report is concerned to ensure that we get treatment to those people who need it.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

I want to share with the hon. Gentleman some information that I received yesterday. It is relevant to how we tackle the issue. In Zambia, where DIFD is involved in a great partnership on primary education, the removal of school fees has enabled girls to go to school, and there has been a shift: among girls receiving primary education, there has been a reduction in HIV infections, whereas for those who have not received primary education, infections continue at similar levels. Primary education—for girls, in particular—can have an impact, and is relevant to the issues that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that intervention, because it reinforces the fact that the AIDS problem can be tackled successfully. There is some evidence of that across east Africa, and not just in Zambia. I received similar information on the situation in Uganda, where it is not only education about HIV/AIDS that makes the difference; it is the fact that the girls are in school, and therefore less vulnerable to being preyed on than when they are out in the communities. So there was a double benefit from their being in schools. That is an immeasurable result, in terms of bringing the epidemic under control and reversing it.

I have one final comment on attitude. The acquittal of Jacob Zuma in a contentious trial in South Africa highlighted the cultural and social problems involved. I picked up a press report that says that, after his trial, he apologised for not having used a condom. That was an acknowledgement that he had been a bad role model, and a sign that he wanted to do something right. Indeed, the report says that

"he became visibly upset when a journalist challenged him on his admission made in court and widely reported in the media, that he had showered after sex to reduce the risk of HIV infection. 'If you've been in the kitchen, my dear, peeling onions, you wash your hands afterwards,' he said."

That is not a very sensitive and sensible comment, but at least he has had the grace to acknowledge that, apologise, and state what he should have done; that is a step in the right direction.

I now come to the completely different issue of TRIPS—trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights—and patent rights. Again, that is a concern for the Minister. There is a Financial Times report about a march on the Indian Parliament yesterday against the application for a patent on an antiretroviral drug from Gilead Sciences. Such a patent would be completely contrary to the spirit of what we are trying to negotiate, which is the right for generic drugs to be manufactured to deal with the problem in individual countries. The final point in the report is:

"Indian drug companies, such as Cipla, have developed a low-cost generic version of tenofovir, priced in India at a seventh of international levels and would be likely to have to cease production or pay steep royalties if a patent was granted."

Clearly, we have not completely won that battle, and I hope that the Government will use whatever influence they have to stop that sort of litigation. That litigation could lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of people by denying them affordable access to drugs, or could divert resources in the Indian budget away from where they are needed.

I am conscious that a number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, so I shall not take the matter further. I conclude by saying that the international community has made an ambitious commitment to tackling the problem. The United Nations is demonstrating a determination to keep on top of that, and at the turn of the month it will monitor where we are on the issue and will make further progress. From that, I hope that we will get an idea of what we have succeeded in doing and where we have failed, and that a recommended course of action is pointed out to help us to achieve our end.

We—and certainly our Committee—will have to take on board the fact that for many of the countries involved, the problem is social, humanitarian and economic. The economic problem has social dimensions. There is a suggestion that, by 2010, some 50 per cent. of all children in Zambia will be orphans. There is a huge issue of responsibility, in terms of who will look after those children, and how they will be brought up and maintained. That is assuming that they are not infected themselves or, if they are, that they can get treatment. A country such as Botswana could see its entire economic success wiped out if it does not get on top of the problem. I hope that the countries concerned have the capacity to do that.

With the greatest respect, although there is no difference of view between us and the Department, the Committee is so concerned about the need to demonstrate commitment that we shall put the Department under continuous review by publishing an annual report on our judgment of what progress has been made, in the hope that that will apply additional pressure. The Department might feel that that is unnecessary, but we think it desirable to ensure that there is an annual parliamentary report saying how well we are doing in achieving the overall objectives.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that GDP growth figures often underestimate the economic impact of AIDS? They cannot encapsulate, for example, the effect of a reduction in life expectancy or the fact that a huge proportion of a country's health service has to be devoted to tackling the scourge of HIV/AIDS rather than to other things. In that sense, even though the reductions in growth figures for African countries that are affected by HIV/AIDS might be relatively small, the impact is much greater.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

The hon. Gentleman is right; indeed, the problem is even worse than that, because in many cases there is substantial under-reporting.

The negative effect of too much moralising—I do not deny that moral education has a value, but there can be too much of it—can add to the stigma and discourage people from coming forward. I see that ex-president Clinton—I think that President Clinton is still his title in the United States—has called for mandatory screening in all countries and has demonstrated that that gets rid of the stigma, because it happens to everybody. People who need treatment are identified and they receive it. I do not know whether that is the answer, but it is an interesting contribution to the debate. We need to identify the problem, quantify it and solve it. That will require every sinew of every major country in the world, in partnership with the countries most affected, to deliver those end products.

The Committee is proud of what the Government are doing. We appreciate the commitment and the lead role that we are playing. We hope that they will use that lead role to help shape the outcome in ways in which we have more confidence than the largest donor to the programme does, the United States. We have to work with the United States, but we have to make it clear that we have a reason for our different approach and that our approach must reach the people that otherwise will not be reached.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East 2:53 pm, 11th May 2006

I am grateful for the opportunity to follow Malcolm Bruce. I pay tribute to his chairmanship and to the Committee for its report, the first of the Session and on an important subject.

I do not intend to speak for too long but, on average, for every minute that I do, nine people in the world will become infected with HIV and six will die from AIDS. At least one of the newly infected people will be a child and so will one of those who dies. I sometimes wonder whether the shock-horror statistics—40 million people living with HIV, five million new infections, three million deaths a year—might be too much or difficult to comprehend. There is a danger that people might become overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis and conclude that the battle is lost.

It is important to remember that progress is possible and in some areas has been made. The global response to AIDS has improved significantly since the world's leaders agreed the 2001 UN General Assembly special session's "Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS". The special session's declaration followed the millennium declaration and set targets for prevention, treatment, care and support. The "Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS" will be reviewed at the UN high-level meeting in New York at the end of this month.

Total funds available for HIV work in the developing world have more than quadrupled since 2001 and are in the target range set by the special session. Progress on the ground can be seen in some areas. Prevention work has reduced the spread of HIV in some countries, including Uganda, Senegal, Thailand and Brazil. With respect to treatment, the "3 by 5" campaign was launched by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation, with the target of giving 3 million people access to drugs by the end of 2005. That target was missed. The number of people getting HIV drugs in the developing world nearly doubled last year to 1.3 million. It is clear that far more needs to be done. For every five people in the developing world who need HIV drugs, only one gets them. Last year the G8, led by the UK, made a commitment to getting as close as possible to universal access to HIV treatment by 2010. I join the Select Committee in commending the work of the Department for International Development in securing that commitment, which was adopted by world leaders at the UN.

Nobody in this Chamber needs to be reminded that if we are to meet the 2010 commitment, catching up with the epidemic will require a huge increase in the scale of the effort. For every one person in the developing world who received antiretrovirals last year, eight people were newly infected.

There has been an increase in funding, but the resources available at present to address HIV/AIDS still do not match the scale of the crisis. As cited by DFID in its written evidence to the Select Committee, it is estimated that $15 billion is required this year to meet prevention, treatment and care objectives, yet only $9 billion is available. The UN Secretary-General has warned that the rate of increase in HIV funding appears to be slowing, yet $22 billion will be needed for 2008.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will remind us that the UK has increased the money that it makes available: at least £1.5 billion will be spent in the current three-year spending round, including £100 million each year for the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

I had the privilege of initiating a debate on the global health fund a year or so ago. At that time, the drive was to get round 5 launched. I was pleased that last month's board meeting agreed to launch round 6, and that the UK was given much of the credit for the decision. However, I understand that no money is yet available for round 6, as all existing finances are required to cover the costs of previous rounds. Of course, that means that new pledges are needed from donors. I would be grateful for an indication from my hon. Friend the Minister as to how he sees that developing and how we can get an adequate response from donors. I welcome the acknowledgement of the Chairman of the Select Committee about the contribution that the Government have made in this area. Indeed, this country is a world leader.

Access to drugs was the centre-piece of the Select Committee's excellent report. One strand in the effort to get drugs to those who need them has dealt with prices. There have been moves to reduce the cost of antiretrovirals in poorer countries through differential pricing and the availability of generic drugs. Such steps have had a noticeable effect on the prices of first-line drugs. However, as resistance becomes more prevalent, there will be more need for second and third-line treatments, whose prices remain high. In his report to next month's high-level meeting, the UN Secretary-General has called on donors to work with their pharmaceutical industries to reduce the prices of second and third-line drugs, and I would be grateful if the Minister could outline where discussions on the matter are in the UK.

Bearing in mind that pharmaceutical companies need an income to finance research, I would be grateful for an insight from my hon. Friend the Minister into how well we are doing at ensuring that lower-priced drugs remain in the developing countries for which they are intended. DFID noted in its framework for good practice in the pharmaceutical industry how important it is to "avoid leakage and diversion". I believe that there is broad consensus in this Parliament that we must enable drug companies to make profits if they are to develop new drugs.

The hon. Member for Gordon referred to trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. As we know from the Government's response, they do not share the Select Committee's view that they should lobby for a review of TRIPS at this time. However, I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister could indicate whether he is of the widely held view that the TRIPS safeguards are too onerous and too complicated for developing countries seeking to get access to vital drugs.

On the affordability of treatment, the Select Committee considered the effect of user fees and concluded that it had heard no evidence that such fees improve adherence to drug regimes. I would be interested to hear the Minister's assessment of the reliability of the data on that point, and his response to the call by the Select Committee to work with the WHO and UNAIDS to issue a statement supporting the removal of user fees.

I note that the UNAIDS paper "Towards Universal Access", published at the end of March, set a target date of June next year for countries to reduce or eliminate user fees for AIDS-related services including treatment. I wonder whether we can anticipate progress in the direction hoped for by the Select Committee. Again, what is the Government's view?

Meeting the 2010 target—the target for universal access—will require action from many agencies at international, regional and national level. The global steering committee, which is co-chaired by the UK, has called for an integrated approach through implementation partnerships involving not only the Government but other key leaders in society, including private sector employers.

I shall say a few words about the need for the private sector to meet its obligations. The World Economic Forum warns that businesses are doing too little, too late, in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The organisation conducted a survey of businesses worldwide and found that some firms have responded to the needs of their work force. Globally, 17 per cent. of responding firms provide antiretroviral drugs. That rises to 38 per cent. in the countries that are hit hardest by HIV. The private sector delivers antiretrovirals to 60,000 people in South Africa. However, the response is still inadequate. Kofi Annan described the level of provision as lamentable. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would outline what is being done to secure a strengthening of the private sector's response.

Getting antiretrovirals to everyone who needs them is not merely a matter of securing adequate quantities of affordable drugs. For a start, health workers can treat only those people who have tested positive for HIV. Access to testing and counselling services more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2005 in more than 70 countries surveyed, but UNAIDS reports that only a fraction of the 40.3 million people who are currently living with HIV are aware of their infection. Yet the health infrastructure in many countries has been weakened. Many health workers have been lost to AIDS. In some countries pay for health care and other key infrastructure staff is below subsistence levels. Added to that is the pull of richer countries that rely on health care workers from the developing world.

The broader health infrastructure of many countries that have been hit by the epidemic will need to be strengthened if the world is to meet the 2010 commitment.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there may be real scope for the international community to give much more support to health workers in relation to financial assistance, social payments or some means to enable them to remain in their own countries to provide the services that are required? In Africa we saw that it is, as my right hon. Friend says, not just the availability of drugs that matters, but systematic testing and monitoring of the people receiving the drugs. That requires an enormous input from health workers. If there are not sufficient health workers—as is true of all the countries in question—we need a way to assist them in acquiring greater numbers, perhaps by training but certainly by support.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East

My hon. Friend raises an important and topical point, because as hon. Members are probably aware, a change in the regulations on medical staff means that people training in the medical field from outwith the European Union will find it difficult to get employment; everything is now swinging in favour of doctors trained in eastern Europe. On Sunday, I spoke to the Bangladeshi postgraduate association in Edinburgh, and although we were not, in particular, pursuing the present subject, we discussed the question of how to provide the correct incentives. What should our attitude be to the doctors and nurses who come to work in our health service?

The answer is that we live in a global world, and that they must have the opportunity, if they want it, to work in this country. However, as my hon. Friend says, we should surely try to provide incentives and encouragement to them to go back, even if only for five years, to make a contribution, having been trained to a high standard in this country. I think, also, that we must be prepared to employ them. We cannot just train them and tell them to go home immediately.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Of course, substantial subvention by the Department for International Development of key cadres of health service staff is taking place to the great advantage of Malawi—a fact that we discovered on a recent visit. Further, however, in response to the intervention of Joan Ruddock, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that on the assumption that we cannot finance staff or anything else for ever, it is incredibly important that we accept the need not only to finance staff now but to train the future trainers of staff?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East

Again, I am grateful for the intervention; it is a complex area and perhaps the Minister will throw some light on it. Certainly we are all aware of the objectives. We want, as the hon. Member for Gordon said, to reverse the process that is going on to an extent in some countries of an implosion of the health infrastructure, for which there are several reasons, not least of which is HIV itself.

I congratulate the Select Committee on addressing prevention in its report on the treatment target. As I have said, last year an extra 630,000 people in the developing world received HIV drugs, but there were also almost 5 million new infections in that year. Without improving prevention work, we do not have a hope of reaching the 2010 commitment.

Many of the people most at risk are not being reached by the HIV prevention programmes. Throughout the world, less than one person in five has access to basic HIV prevention services. Less than a third of young people in the developing world can correctly identify ways of preventing HIV transmission, as against the 90 per cent. target set by the special session. The United Nations population fund estimates the gap between the supply and the demand of condoms to be 50 per cent. It is also important to reduce maternal transmission of HIV. Only 9 per cent. of HIV-positive pregnant women receive antiretroviral drugs; that is still very low. The failure to provide treatment to pregnant women is one of the factors leading to 1,800 infants becoming infected with HIV every day. The Department for International Development's written evidence to the Select Committee cites estimates that a comprehensive HIV prevention package costing $4.2 billion annually by 2007 could avert 29 million of the 45 million new infections expected by 2010. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to do all in his power to secure additional funding for the world's prevention efforts.

All Members present are aware that reaching a consensus on prevention work presents challenges, most notably in respect of the use of condoms. I was interested to read the evidence given to the Committee in support of the ABC approach—abstinence, be faithful and use condoms. However, I share the Committee's concern about an over-emphasis on abstinence; the Chairman, the hon. Member for Gordon, referred to that. If ABC is to work, the three strands must work together. We must not allow the moral attractions of A or B to lead us to exclude from HIV prevention work the very people who need to be reached.

In that context, Members will have seen reports that the Catholic Church may be prepared to consider whether the use of a condom is a lesser evil than the transmission of AIDS. According to the media coverage, the specific circumstances currently being considered involve the use of condoms by a married couple when one of them is HIV-positive. I am sure that we all look forward to seeing these deliberations proceed.

At the end of this month, a high-level meeting will review achievements against the targets set five years ago in the declaration of commitment on HIV/AIDS. As I suggested at the beginning of my remarks, despondency is as much our enemy as complacency. Behind the missed targets and depressingly high infection rates lie grounds for hope for the 2010 commitment to universal access. To miss the "3 by 5" target was desperately disappointing, but the progress made in response to the initiative showed that antiretrovirals can be administered in deprived areas, that adherence is good, and that the necessary public health policies can be put in place.

I shall conclude by quoting directly from Kofi Annan's report to the forthcoming high-level meeting:

"Although the epidemic and its toll continue to outstrip the worst predictions, the foundation for an extraordinarily stronger and sustained response is largely in place. For the first time ever, the will and means needed to make real headway have been secured."

We can be proud of the British Government's contribution, and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister will be in place in the next few crucial years. I am sure that he has the experience to continue to contribute to ensuring that we progress.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. Before I call the next speaker, I remind Members that we have to conclude the debate by half-past 5. Quite a large number of Members wish to speak, including some who have not given notice to the Speaker's Office, and I would like to allow as many Members as possible to contribute to this important debate—if not all of them who wish to do so.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 3:09 pm, 11th May 2006

It is a great pleasure to follow Dr. Strang. He followed me in a disability debate last week in the main Chamber and said that my tone was very much in line with the new leadership of the Conservative party. I have been trying to work out whether he considered that to be a compliment. In any case, it is a pleasure to follow him again.

It is also a pleasure to follow the Chairman of the Select Committee, Malcolm Bruce, who made an excellent contribution. Under his chairmanship, the Committee has not fallen into the trap of thinking that we have solved the HIV/AIDS problem with the Gleneagles declaration. It has remained a high priority on the Committee's agenda, which I welcome and thank him for.

I also commend Mr. Gerrard on the work that he does as chair of the all-party group on AIDS. I worked closely with him on the successful early-day motion on interim targets which was signed by 250 Members. As a new Member, I reflected on whether the secret to success was to form an alliance between old left and new right, although I suspect that such an approach would not find favour in either of our parties.

Last month, in Nairobi, I attended the funeral of Christobel Wanju, an HIV-positive orphan. She was 13 years old, and I met her a couple of years ago on a visit to Kenya. She was a delightful girl, and was apparently healthy, although she was HIV-positive. She had an undetectable viral load; her CD4 count was perfectly adequate. Five weeks ago, she had severe headaches and was rushed to hospital. Tragically, on 4 April, she died. The reality is, unfortunately, that antiretroviral drugs alone are not the answer. From time to time, even children such as Christobel, who was in the controlled environment of an orphanage and was getting all the care and medicine that she needed, are cruelly snatched away just because the virus makes them weak. That is particularly the case for orphaned children, who do not receive the care that they need in their early years, although they might receive it later.

The slow-burn effect of HIV/AIDS means that it is not like a famine or tsunami, so it usually does not hit the headlines in the same way. When these children keep dying, we must remember the figure put out by UNAIDS: one child dies every minute. Last year, 570,000 children died from HIV/AIDS. Let us compare that with the tsunami which occurred at the turn of that year. We are talking about two tsunamis' worth of deaths from HIV/AIDS of children alone. Let us add the relevant figure for adult deaths, and we are talking about eight tsunamis' worth of deaths from HIV/AIDS, not as a one-off event, but every year.

The tragedy of the epidemic is that it is getting worse. For every child who dies from HIV/AIDS, 1.3 children are being born with it. We have almost managed to eliminate mother-to-child transmission in the developed world, but in many African countries the relevant figure for it is still more than 35 per cent.

Some people understandably ask, "Why AIDS? What about all the other killer diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria and smallpox?" The best answer to that was given by Professor Alan Whiteside of the university of Natal. He described HIV/AIDS as an "involutionary" event. For him, involution is the opposite to evolution. He describes how most viruses extinguish themselves because they end up killing the host that is carrying them. The evil genius of HIV/AIDS is that the host—the person who is infected—remains apparently healthy for long enough to be able to transmit the infection to many other people before they themselves become ill.

As HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, the effect on young people is particularly devastating. A prevalence rate of 25 per cent. in a country means that the likelihood of a teenager getting the virus in their lifetime is 50 per cent. If the prevalence rate increases to 35 per cent., their likelihood of getting it increases to between 80 and 90 per cent. South Africa is heading in that direction. At current rates, by 2010 it is predicted that three quarters of its teenagers will not be able to expect to live until their 60th birthday.

In that context, the Government should be extremely proud of what they achieved at Gleneagles last year. The 2010 universal access commitment was championed by the UK and was not easy to achieve. I congratulate the Minister and the Secretary of State on their personal commitment to that. I am grateful that interim targets have become UK Government policy, and am pleased to see that they are one of the proposals that we hope will be adopted from the submissions that are going before the UN for the high-level meeting on 2 June. What is the Minister's candid assessment of the chances of interim targets and milestones being adopted at that meeting?

If we are to achieve universal access, it will not be a question only of declarations and high-level commitments from the world community; a number of practical challenges will also need to be addressed, and I should like to touch briefly on some of them. The first challenge is money. This week, the Minister stated to me in a parliamentary answer that there will be a funding shortfall of $18 billion in anti-AIDS programmes during the next two years—only half the period between now and 2010. The international community is still not putting its money where its mouth is. What will the Minister do to try to persuade G8 countries other than the US and the UK, which have taken a leading role in the battle against AIDS—the Italys, Frances, Germanys and Japans—to play their role and contribute what they should to the battle against HIV/AIDS?

I do not want to pre-empt Ms Keeble, who is a great expert on paediatric drugs, but the second big challenge is the supply of paediatric drugs for HIV-positive children. The HIV virus is unusually and particularly aggressive in children, whose immune systems are undeveloped, yet fewer than one in 20 of the children who need antiretrovirals can expect to get them. When they do get them, by and large the portions, which have been chopped up, are not sized for them, but for adults. The regimen for antiretroviral drugs has to be administered extremely carefully, and that is a bad way of ensuring that children get the correct dosages. They very often have to rely on syrups and solutions, which, again, are not ideal because the dosage can be wrong and they have to be refrigerated.

As the shadow Secretary of State for International Development pointed out yesterday in the House, there is no market for such drugs in the west so drugs companies have been very slow in developing them. The point of his question was this, and I ask the Minister to respond to it: if the Secretary of State asked to see the heads of the drugs companies, that would provide a major impetus for getting them to raise paediatric AIDS drugs up their list of priorities. Although I strongly welcome the discussions between the Department for International Development and the drugs companies, if such meetings were attended by the Secretary of State, the bosses of those companies would attend too and we would be far more likely to get progress.

The final challenge has not been talked about a great deal. How will fragile states in the poorest African countries, particularly conflict and post-conflict zones, reach the 2010 universal access target? Hank McKinnell, the chairman of Pfizer, one of the companies that manufactures a lot of antiretroviral drugs, said that if the cure for HIV/AIDS were simply a glass of clean water, we would not be able to get it to half the people who need it.

The development of health infrastructure is appallingly bad in such countries as Burundi, where there are only 300 doctors, a great majority of whom are in the capital. The Clinton Foundation recently estimated that if it were to get antiretroviral drugs to 57,000 people in Rwanda, it would need to double the number of doctors there. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I went recently, outside Kinshasa there is only one doctor for every 30,000 people. That compares with one doctor for every 600 people in the UK.

There are two particular problems in conflict zones. First, there are food shortages. Some 17 million of the 53 million people in the DRC face such shortages, and antiretroviral drugs do not work properly if people do not receive proper nutrition. The second problem in conflict and post-conflict zones is the explosion of sexual violence. Indeed, while I was in the DRC, I went to one of the world's only rape hospitals. The problem is a real challenge, and it, too, must be addressed.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the problems, but I want to conclude on a slightly more positive note because I believe that AIDS can be defeated in our lifetime. Although we are unlikely to find a cure—unfortunately, HIV/AIDS changes the DNA of cells and is incredibly difficult to unravel—we can have much better prevention programmes. Hopefully, those will involve microbicides, which offer great hope.

We can also have a much bigger roll-out of testing programmes. We need to look at what is happening in Lesotho, which has an opt-out testing programme. The programme is not mandatory, but every child is automatically tested at the age of 12 unless they opt out. That happens to everyone, so the stigma of testing is removed, which is a positive step.

We need to bring down the price of antiretroviral drugs much further. In particular, we need partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and generic drug manufacturers. Just imagine what would happen to the price of antiretroviral drugs if China started manufacturing them. That would have a huge impact, and it is potentially round the corner.

Finally, we might find a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Michael Gottlieb, who discovered the virus in 1981, said that we could be trialling a vaccine by 2010 and that it could be widely available by 2021. My question, therefore, is simply this: given that we have the drugs to prevent AIDS deaths now, how many people will have died needlessly by then?

Photo of David Borrow David Borrow Labour, South Ribble 3:22 pm, 11th May 2006

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I congratulate the Select Committee on producing its report. I am an officer of the all-party group on AIDS, so I take a particular interest in the subject, and I am pleased that the Committee gave it high priority.

Other hon. Members mentioned Botswana, and I want to speak a little about that country. I have visited Botswana three times since I entered Parliament. I went once in 1999, on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association visit, and again in 2004. At the end of March this year, the Government of Botswana invited me to visit, and I spent four days looking at their HIV/AIDS programme. Over those three visits, I have been struck by how a country can change its reaction to HIV/AIDS.

In 1999, I spoke to the Minister of Health in Botswana, and there was a sense that HIV/AIDS was not a problem. However, I also spoke to the manager of a diamond mine who had just completed the anonymous testing of the work force and discovered infection rates of 25 to 30 per cent. Clearly, there was a problem, and the Government of Botswana quickly changed their approach. A few years ago, they reached an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Merck to put in place a full programme of antiretroviral treatment for the population. That involved a $50 million contribution from Merck, the foundation and the Government. The Merck Company Foundation also provides the programme's two basic drugs—Crixivan and Stocrin.

When I went to Botswana two years ago, the country was beginning to build the delivery mechanism. I visited the Princess Marina hospital in Gaborone, which was the main clinic at the time, and it was treating about 24,000 patients. When I went there a few weeks ago, it had rolled the programme out across the country. Drugs are being distributed at more than 30 centres, and there are more than 50,000 people on the treatment programme, which is provided free. In addition, just under 10,000 people are probably being provided with drugs by their employers—mainly the diamond mine corporations in Botswana.

It is interesting that 300,000 people out of a population of 1.7 million are estimated to be HIV-positive. The Government feel that if they can reach 110,000 through the drugs programme, that will meet the needs of those people who require the drugs. They aim to reach that target in the next couple of years, but because of the spread of the disease and the fact that some of those who do not need the treatment at the moment will need it in the future, they will eventually need to deliver the programme to 150,000 throughout Botswana.

Botswana, as has been said, is a middle-income country with stable government and good infrastructure, and its health service is probably better than those of many other countries in Africa. Even with the deal that has been done, the money that has come in, the ability to deliver a drugs programme and a series of new testing centres, it is beginning to run into capacity problems in trying to use a western medical model to deliver the testing programme and the treatment programme throughout the country. I sense that even in Botswana they will struggle to have the capacity to do so.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

The hon. Gentleman quotes a good case, and the Select Committee was in the same hospital just a few weeks ago. We were concerned to be told that 52.4 per cent. of Botswana's development aid programme is going on the HIV/AIDS programme. As he says, the Government are struggling in one of the most privileged countries. That shows the scale of the problem and why it is such a challenge. He is right: Botswana is a success story in comparison with most other places.

Photo of David Borrow David Borrow Labour, South Ribble

One of the things that I picked up and sensed from the visit was that if there is bound to be a struggle even in Botswana, we need to encourage new systems and new models of delivery of care.

We need to engage with the medical professions to see whether we can deliver pharmaceutical products, do the testing and so on without relying on everything being done by pharmacists and doctors, and to see whether there is a way of working with people with lower skills and qualifications to deliver what is needed. If we cannot succeed in Botswana, the chances of being able to succeed in the rest of Africa, however much money is given for drug treatment, are not very large. It is not simply a matter of getting drugs for free, or for very little, and providing millions of dollars in aid. In the end, each country has to use its human capacity to put in place the medical system to deliver the drug treatment programme.

We need to begin to see whether it is possible to develop a different type of delivery mechanism to the one that we would expect to see in western Europe and north America. That problem has to be tackled in Botswana. It will apply across the whole of the developing world, because I do not understand how we can reach our aim to allow everybody who needs treatment to get the drugs unless we find a different mechanism for delivery. That is one of the lessons that I have picked up.

The Chairman of the Select Committee, Malcolm Bruce, raised my next point, which is the approach to prevention and how we challenge people's assumptions—ABC is the shorthand. A few years ago I was involved with UNAIDS and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in developing a handbook for parliamentarians on the subject. In all those discussions, what came across was the need to take a human rights approach to HIV/AIDS and to ask what in our legislation and prejudices gets in the way of tackling the disease. What do we as parliamentarians here, in Botswana, in India or wherever, need to do to enable AIDS to be defeated?

On a visit a few years ago to look into HIV/AIDS, I remember speaking to people in New Zealand, an affluent, western country. They faced a challenge in the late 1980s which meant they had to make decisions about drug users and men who had sex with men. It was necessary to change the law and change what was done to enable the problem to be tackled. I remember when the question of men who have sex with men was raised in Botswana, and the attitude was similar: "That is not something we really talk about." It is difficult to challenge that in many African countries.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow North

My hon. Friend makes a thoughtful speech, but does he agree that cultural attitudes about the role of women—I have noticed this particularly in sub-Saharan Africa—are a major contributor to the problem? Many women are kept deliberately ignorant of how to protect their sexual health, and they are certainly not encouraged to seek the information. We need to build up a civil society movement for women in those areas if we are effectively to deliver treatment of the sort he describes, and introduce the mechanisms that will enable our goals to be achieved.

Photo of David Borrow David Borrow Labour, South Ribble

I agree. I am always struck when I visit sub-Saharan Africa by the strong imbalance between the sexes, and the frequency of sexual relationships between older men and younger women. Economic imbalance feeds the spread of the disease. Older men have many sexual partners, who are often very young women, and that creates problems because of the women's inability, as a result of the sexual imbalance in society, to insist on condoms or to say no. It is a challenge for us to ask countries in which the development has been different from ours to examine many of their belief systems when they get in the way of tackling HIV/AIDS.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

The continued and extensive incidence of sexual violence, not least rape, is a related and legitimate cause for concern. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that donor countries must help recipient countries to address that problem, not least in the light of the fact that it is not merely the male rulers of those countries who regard that state of affairs as unexceptionable; it is a depressing reality that a large proportion of female citizens apparently still think that it is something up with which they have to put?

Photo of David Borrow David Borrow Labour, South Ribble

I agree. A few years ago I visited a hospital in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and spoke to women there. A culture clearly existed in which if a man wanted sexual relations with a woman or wanted to go out with a woman and she said no, it was legitimate for him to rape her, because she would then be no use to anyone and would have no choice but to become his sexual partner. That attitude was common, as was the attitude that a wife should expect to have nine children. That problem is particularly acute in the Ethiopian context, in which boys are fed much better than girls and women tend to be very small. As a result, many problems associated with the physical size of the woman occur in childbirth. I am well aware of that difficulty.

On a different matter, I am patron of a charity, the Naz Foundation International, which does work in south Asia to do with men who have sex with men. The Department for International Development contributes to projects there, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister, who is, I know, hoping to visit India in the near future, gets the opportunity to see some of those projects. In the south Asian context, it is interesting that infection rates are significantly higher among men than among women. That is a reversal of the situation in sub-Saharan Africa. It reflects a different pattern of sexual transmission. Although there is not what would be seen by western society as a gay community, it is not uncommon for men who are married and who have children to have sex with other men. That may be one of the links that creates the different pattern.

The legal situation in most of south Asia is not conducive to tackling the problem, which brings us back to the human rights issue and the fact that parliamentarians can put in place a proper legislative framework to help tackle such problems. I urge my hon. Friend to raise the matter if he visits India, because with that scale of population we need to do everything that we can to prevent an explosion of HIV/AIDS in south Asia. The risk is that such an explosion would be much larger than the explosion in Africa.

Several hon. Members rose—

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Order. Again, I want to help hon. Members. If they discipline themselves when speaking, I hope that everyone will have the chance to speak. It is important that all who hope to speak can do so, given that they have been patient and have prepared for the debate.

Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister, Scotland 3:36 pm, 11th May 2006

This is an important debate. We have heard a number of thoughtful contributions from all parts of the House. As the Select Committee report says, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a full-blown global health emergency. When we consider the figures, it is impossible to disagree. The sheer scale of the problem is sobering. Since 1981, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS, and by the end of 2005 more than 40 million globally were living with HIV/AIDS. Of that number, 60 per cent. were living in sub-Saharan Africa, where the situation is most severe, and of the 5 million new infections recorded globally in 2005, 3.2 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.

Figures like those are difficult to appreciate fully, but they help to underline the scale of the problem. However, although Africa is bearing the brunt of the disease, no part of the world is immune to the pandemic. HIV/AIDS is not restricted to a particular country, age group or section of society. It is a global problem, and it requires and deserves a global reaction. It is in that context that I welcome today's debate on the report "Delivering the Goods" and the Government's response.

It is worth remembering that since 1999 there has been a steep rise in the number of HIV diagnoses in the United Kingdom. Reports show that at least 6,700 people in the UK were diagnosed with HIV during 2005, and that number is expected to rise. The welcome and rapid scaling up of antiretroviral treatment programmes in Africa, driven by international advocacy and supported by unprecedented global funding, offers hope to millions of HIV-infected Africans. It is important to realise how far the issue has moved up the priority list in the international community, which I welcome wholeheartedly.

I join those who have already spoken in commending the work of the Department for International Development, in particular its success in securing the G8 commitment to ensuring universal antiretroviral treatment by 2010. However, although Her Majesty's Government are a worthy contributor to the battle against HIV/AIDS, one of DFID's key roles must be to influence the approach of other nations, to ensure that the funds mobilised are used in the most effective manner.

I shall be brief, and I shall try to avoid repeating what has already been said. I wish to focus on the importance of prevention and the need to steer international efforts towards a greater appreciation of a more balanced approach to treating HIV/AIDS. First, I add my voice to those who have argued that prevention and treatment are two sides of the same coin. As "Delivering the Goods" makes clear, expanding access to HIV treatment should not be seen as a simple technical fix to the pandemic. A major scaling up of HIV prevention must form an integral part of all programmes to expand treatment. It could be argued that the overall international investment does not fully reflect that. In that regard, the Department's approach is difficult to fault.

I was delighted to see the important role played by DFID in securing international agreement on UNAIDS new prevention policy and to see the Government throw their weight behind emphasising the importance of a properly balanced approach in that regard and the recognition that prevention must remain the cornerstone of a comprehensive response to AIDS. DFID has a crucial role to play, not simply to fill the gaps left by the US, as some have put it, but to lead and inform the US policy and approach. As the Committee repeatedly heard in evidence, continued research is needed on the complex range of factors that affect HIV transmission and determine the eventual success or failure of HIV prevention strategies. The crucial point is that any such strategies must be firmly based on evidence; there should be no political agenda to them.

As many hon. Members will know, the US Government's PEPFAR fund—the President's emergency plan for AIDS relief—has a strong emphasis on the provision of treatment and care for people with AIDS, with only one fifth of the money used for HIV prevention work. Many groups and workers on the ground have rightly been dismayed by the requirement that one third of those prevention resources be ring-fenced for spending on programmes promoting sexual abstinence before marriage. That is a good idea for those to whom it is applicable, but it does not work for all.

The emphasis on that idea has been the subject of considerable discussion, particularly with regard to the effectiveness of such an approach at the apparent expense of other initiatives, such as the distribution of condoms. PEPFAR's five-year strategy document mentions condom provision and promotion only for those who practise high-risk behaviour; condoms are not mentioned as a strategy to help young people in general. Clearly, that approach differs significantly from previous US policy and the policies of other donors, including the UK. The European Union and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have a similar view to that of the UK. Often, the ABC approach—abstinence, being faithful and condoms—is advocated by the US, but sometimes it is over-weighted in favour of the A and the B. Hon. Members will know that there have been reports of organisations refusing US funding because they believe that condoms should be promoted beyond high-risk groups. There is a fear that the approach will lead to the restigmatisation of condoms and promote the notion that they do not work as a form of HIV prevention. Such stigmatisation is a side effect that we can ill afford.

The medical journal The Lancet has published an editorial calling PEPFAR's approach to preventing sexual HIV transmission "ill-informed and ideologically driven", and calling for a complete reversal of the policy. The editorial concludes:

"Many more lives will be saved if condom use is heavily promoted alongside messages to abstain and be faithful".

I could not agree more. The essential problem is that PEPFAR sets other funding restrictions that are not necessarily based on evidence of what is most effective in combating HIV and AIDS. Thankfully, DFID's approach has been quite the reverse. It is crucial that we use what leverage we have to steer US policy towards what works and away from what will satisfy the conscience of the American Christian lobby.

One further issue that warrants serious discussion—it has been mentioned—is the potential use of HIV testing as a medical routine for any patient whose symptoms may be due to HIV and as routine for all individuals with tuberculosis. There is a growing feeling that that could be justified, not only in the interests of the patient but in the broader interest of HIV prevention. As hon. Members will know, HIV has a long incubation period; many years can pass with no symptoms apparent. As a result, individuals can unwittingly pass on the disease to many people. Clearly, one major challenge is identifying those individuals at an early stage.

Sir John Crofton, a distinguished Edinburgh scientist and the pioneer of the DOTS—directly observed treatment short course—programme for TB, is one of the growing number of cheerleaders for routine testing. Sir John recently pointed out to me that many years ago, when syphilis was a major health problem, it was routine to test for syphilis all patients complaining of almost anything, as syphilis has such a wide variety of symptoms. Similarly, if we are to treat HIV as a public health emergency, which it undoubtedly is, routine testing could make a major difference in preventing the spread of the disease and improving early diagnosis and treatment. Having to ask every patient for permission to test for HIV can give rise to much unnecessary anxiety, as many patients will undoubtedly be negative. There is also the danger that the practice only reinforces the stigmatisation of HIV that has been such an obstacle to progress.

The contrast between the treatment of tuberculosis and the treatment of HIV is also worthy of some consideration. TB prevention and control programmes have epitomised the public health approach, where controlling transmission of the disease has been a paramount aim, with less focus on patient-centred goals. In contrast, HIV programmes have tended to focus on an individual approach to HIV testing that is private, confidential and voluntary, but which has placed little emphasis on interrupting chains of transmission.

We have to ask ourselves whether that approach is sustainable. In a region where such a large proportion of the population is living with HIV, public health must be the priority. Fewer than 10 per cent. of African patients with TB are tested for HIV. I would be interested to hear the Minister's thoughts on the introduction of universal HIV testing for patients with confirmed or suspected tuberculosis. TB and HIV go hand in hand so often that it would make sense for treatment and prevention to do likewise.

We should also be sensitive to the relationships among TB, malaria and HIV. In the countries with the highest HIV prevalence, more than 75 per cent. of TB cases are HIV-associated. Those three diseases are interconnected and it is important that responses are tailored to reflect that. I am pleased that a truly co-ordinated approach towards TB and HIV is now recognised at the highest levels. Many members of the Committee and other hon. Members have met too many people who have suffered from HIV and AIDS. One is one too many, but fortunately the provision of antiretrovirals provides a light at the end of the tunnel. We must ensure that, through the report and this debate, we continue to tackle the problem and keep it at the top of our agenda.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North 3:47 pm, 11th May 2006

I shall keep my remarks brief, because I appreciate that other hon. Members want to participate. I should also like to say what a pleasure it is to follow the excellent speech made by John Barrett.

I shall focus on two points. The first is the report's recommendations on children and the second is delivery on the ground. In commending the report, which above all is focused and concise—that strengthens its recommendations—I am pleased to see its recommendations on the need for more attention to be paid to children with HIV and AIDS, particularly in connection with the research on new paediatric formulae and diagnostics. I shall not repeat the remarks that Mr. Hunt made in his excellent speech, but I should say that he set out clearly the problems faced as a result of the lack of paediatric formulae; indeed, I understand that only one combination of drugs is prepared specifically for children.

The issue of diagnostics is desperately important. Anyone who goes to homes and street shelters in sub-Saharan Africa will find children who have been abandoned at the steps for other people to bring up. The carers have no idea of the status of the children or sometimes of the background of the parents. There is no way in which the carers can establish such status because of the lack of research on effective diagnostics for children. I have seen children who were clearly ill, but whose illness it was impossible for the carers exactly to determine.

UNICEF gave evidence to the Committee—it made an excellent submission—and at one stage it was proposing to establish a special fund to look at the development of paediatric formulae and of diagnostics. I would be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Minister whether UNICEF is still pressing for that fund and if so, whether the Government will contribute to it, as it would seem an important way to plug one of the gaps in HIV/AIDS provision.

I also want to deal with the effectiveness of aid and access to antiretrovirals, because there are two sides to treatment: the roll-out of antiretrovirals, and ensuring that people can access drugs and take advantage of them. We must focus on both aspects. I commend the work of Save the Children in this regard. In an excellent report on blockages in the international aid system, it identified such blockages and, in particular, identified money that goes into national Governments and does not come out again. It was a real credit to Save the Children that it also found that money goes into large NGOs and stays there without reaching the community organisations.

I should also like to draw attention to the work emerging from the technical consultation in London organised by the consortiums working group on orphans and vulnerable children. My hon. Friend the Minister knows about that work, which specifically considered such issues, and about the research that World Vision has just set up to analyse in practical terms in the field the way in which funding gets through. I hope that DFID will take on board all that work to ensure that aid is more effective.

I have recently returned from Nairobi in Kenya, where I spent two days at a conference that the Department for Education and Skills sponsored to consider children's issues and, in particular, young carers in relation to AIDS. It was an excellent and well-organised conference. I encourage DFID to liaise with DFES and to pick up the recommendations from the conference and find some way to carry them forward. They focus largely on the details of child care using a child-centred approach, and they do so from the perspective of child policy, which sits within DFES but has profound implications for international development policy.

I also took the chance to visit Kibera and speak to the Kenyan Network of Women with AIDS, with which I work, as my hon. Friend knows. The network still has financial problems. It is grateful to DFID for the funds that have been provided, which amount to about £10,000, but it needs a budget of $300,000 to run a total of eight centres, so there is still a substantial shortfall.

Having spoken to the network in some detail, I understand that the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are not funding the Kenyan Government, because of the problems in that Government. One can say that we should not put funds through a government with traceability and accountability problems, but in practice it means that in Kenya, which has one of the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS, either 300 or 3,000—I cannot remember how many noughts were on the figure—community-based organisations are without money. Some have shut down, while others such as KENWA have been able to beg, borrow and cadge to get enough funds to keep on going. However, they have had to retrench people, reduce payments and refuse to take on new cases, and in the Kenyan context, that is desperate.

Cynics might ask what the funding of community-based organisations has to do with the roll-out of antiretrovirals. The answer is simple: those organisations work in the slums where the high incidence rates are. Kibera has an infection rate of about 40 to 50 per cent., according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The organisations have credibility in the community, and they can deal with the problems of stigma and provide an holistic approach for people. They will provide people with food and ensure that their rent is paid and that they are strong enough to withstand the rigours of antiretroviral treatment, which, as the hon. Member for South-West Surrey said, is a major issue.

Funds and treatment need to be provided, and everyone recognises that there has been enormous progress in that area, thanks in particular to the UK Government, who have played an influential role. At the same time, however, the pull of demand is required at the other end. We need people to come forward and access counselling and treatment in the most disadvantaged areas where infection rates are highest. I understand that at the UNGASS meeting next month, the community-based organisations are going to bring up the fact that funding at community level is not there.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Does the hon. Lady agree that one problem for community organisations is the fact that DFID is reluctant to fund small organisations in countries such as Kenya, because it prefers to fund big programmes? Often, some of those important community organisations, which can be very effective on the ground, find that they cannot get the support that they need.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. This is a complex issue. It is understandable that a large, bilateral programme is not well placed to fund an individual, small-scale community-based organisation. There is a need to have local ownership. UNICEF also provides funding: it provides some of the £150 million earmarked for orphans and vulnerable children. There is an issue regarding how the consultation methods are set up; it is about people knowing how to get access to those funds when they are provided through other organisations.

There is a major issue with situations in which there is a corrupt or problematic Government through whom funding is supposed to be going, and we should probably consider whether there is some arms-length way of dealing with that problem. I completely understand that the global fund and the World Bank do not want to put enormous amounts of our constituents' money through corrupt Governments, but it is unacceptable for our constituents to think that money has been earmarked and then find out that there are 300 or 3,000 organisations at grass-roots level that are desperate to help some of the poorest and most vulnerable people, but simply cannot get access to the money. It is not surprising when such organisations say, "Excuse us for being just a tiny bit cynical; we hear about the money being spent but we simply don't know how to get hold of it. In the meantime, we are laying people off, the kids are going hungry, we can't get people on to treatment and people are dying." That is a serious issue.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East

I think that hon. Members are impressed by my hon. Friend's involvement in the situation and her knowledge. She is clearly making a distinction between bilateral support from the UK Government and the global fund. I am sure that she will agree that it is important to maintain the credibility of the global fund. Does she agree that there is a danger that if projects are not properly tested and people are not confident that the Government are delivering, the global fund will begin to lose credibility?

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

I take that point. The funding issue is too complex to go into within the confines of this debate. My hon. Friend the Minister has been helpful by listening to me moaning at him about this matter for quite some time. I appreciate his patience in that, and the detail of his responses. I assume that he is going to the meeting that I mentioned, and I ask him to take time to meet the organisations, listen to what they say, take it seriously, and find a way to deal with the red tape that prevents people from getting the money that everyone wants them to have to produce the results that everyone agrees are a desirable goal. If he can do that, there will be real progress on the ground and, given that the UK Government have been so good about giving out all the money, the roll-out of the antiretrovirals will be effective and will reach some of the most vulnerable people, whom we see when we visit those communities, and ensure that they and their children have the benefit of these miracle drugs—longer life and better health.

I apologise, Sir Nicholas, that because some constituents have been waiting to see me for rather a long time to talk about health issues, I shall have to duck out of the debate for a while. I apologise also to whichever hon. Member speaks after me, but I shall return.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 4:00 pm, 11th May 2006

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate and to be reacquainted with friends on a Committee that I still miss very much. The work of Her Majesty's Opposition has taken me in a different direction for the past couple of years.

It is also a pleasure to listen to a series of speeches that would, if they were more widely available, do much to combat the rather smart cynicism about modern politics and our commitment to people. The compassion and knowledge shown by members of the Committee and hon. Members who speak about the topic never ceases to amaze me, not least the contribution of my new colleague, my hon. Friend Mr. Hunt. Every now and again, contributions come along that make one appreciate politics in general and the fact that one's own party is in good hands for the future, and do much to contribute to such a belief.

What personal and slight knowledge I have of the topic tends to come from my work with World Vision, a visit to Mozambique last year and the challenging and interesting contributions from my hon. Friend John Bercow. World Vision took us to see children orphaned by AIDS and I want to base my brief contribution on the part of the report that covered that.

I am sure that we have all experienced the same feeling on such visits: a mixture of a distressing and an uplifting experience. What one sees is distressing, as is one's feeling of inadequacy at walking away from almost unbearable life situations which the throw of the dice has given to others. Yet, it can be uplifting because of the extraordinary commitment of those who work with such families and the spirit of those who are infected but find a way to live which would challenge the presumptions of most of us.

I, too, found the difficulties relating to diet that my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey mentioned distressing. In the small district that we visited, 80 people had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, none of whom was receiving treatment because the available diet would not have sustained the treatment that could have been had at some of the local clinics.

Children who are orphaned by AIDS present a series of problems. Food and care must be found for the family and the children must do that, so their education suffers. The number of children in families with HIV/AIDS who are dropping out of the education that is available on a greater scale than ever before is a worry for us all.

World Vision has long had a focus on children orphaned by AIDS and I pay tribute to the work of that Christian-based organisation. Some of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS are tricky, but I want the compassionate voice of Christians who work in the area to be heard. There are some difficult mindsets to be thought through, not particularly in Africa but certainly in the United States. Plenty of Christian believers can cut through those and work with compassion. If we want to see Jesus in our world today, we should expect to find him not in the harsh words and angry controversies of men dancing about on pinheads of doctrine, but rather in the sweet voices and kind hands of those who touch the broken and the hurt.

To give an example of that and to reflect on something said by Malcolm Bruce in his opening comments, I draw hon. Members' attention to the "Hope" initiative that World Vision has been running for some years. It is deliberately targeted at some of the most vulnerable people and those whose behaviour is on the margins to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The "Hope" initiative in Mozambique concentrates particularly on drivers who take goods from the centre of the country to the ports. They follow particular routes and are away from home for great lengths of time. Their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and the danger that they pose to others through their conduct can, of course, lead to them being at the very edge of society. They are perhaps not on everybody's first list of those who need care and support, but World Vision is providing that care, and it thinks it very important to work with sex workers, truck drivers, miners and those in particularly high-risk situations. It works through prevention, through offering care and, increasingly, through advocacy. World Vision sees that as not only a social and health issue, but a human rights issue, too, as Mr. Borrow mentioned.

I wish to make two brief points on our concerns about children, an issue highlighted yesterday in the House, and today in this debate. I welcome the attention that the Committee paid to the needs of children, and to making sure that children are not missed out from efforts made to increase provision of, and access to, treatment for HIV/AIDS. In particular, I draw the Minister's attention to targets; I hope that we will firmly press for country plans to include targets. If money has been ring-fenced to deal with children with AIDS and those orphaned by it, it is essential that it actually gets through. Plenty of countries have made commitments in the past, but things have not always worked out, because it is easy for those without voices—children orphaned by AIDS are often precisely those with the smallest voice—to be missed in a rough-and-tumble situation where there is much demand for scarce resources. I would appreciate it if we looked hard at the issue of appropriate, measurable, transparent and achievable targets, and if that could be covered in the reporting-back process that Dr. Strang mentioned.

Secondly, when considering affordable medicines, one should please take note of the need for affordable diagnostics, too. The most commonly available, easy-to-use diagnostic test is inaccurate for children under 18 months. Infants must be diagnosed through a more complicated test that measures the HIV virus instead of antibodies. Unfortunately, current tests require technical expertise as well as costly equipment. As it stands, many multinational diagnostic companies have shown little interest in developing accurate, simple, fast and affordable tests for diagnosing children. There are similar arguments on the production of necessary vaccines, tablets and other medicines. In much the same way, colleagues refer, in the report, to the very amateurish attempts to break down adult doses into something apparently more compatible with children.

Again, proper diagnostic testing needs to be done—not in an ad hoc way, but in a proper, scientific manner. We should get those who can provide such tests to engage in the subject, and to realise the importance of their products to the most vulnerable. It would be most welcome to have a commitment to ensuring that when treatment is considered, diagnostics will be considered, too.

In general, that is a further area where the work of the Government and the Department for International Development has been excellent over the past few years. There is a general welcome for many of the things that the Department does. It has raised the bar for everyone and has produced a degree of consensus on the work done that is entirely appropriate when dealing with some of the world's problems. There will continue to be challenging questions for those doing that work, but in general there is much to be proud of. I just mention to the Chairman of the International Development Committee that it has played a significant role over the years, and it is excellent that that work is continuing. On behalf of the children most affected by this appalling plague, I hope that their voice also will be heard in the next stage of the work done to alleviate this dreadful suffering experienced by so many.

Photo of Chris McCafferty Chris McCafferty Labour, Calder Valley 4:09 pm, 11th May 2006

I, too, congratulate the Select Committee and its relatively new chair, Malcolm Bruce, on the great deal of hard work done on this important report, and the Government on their response.

HIV/AIDS threatens to destroy a generation of leaders, workers, parents and young people and has created a generation of orphans in the worst affected countries. In many countries, the infection is creeping through the population and is preparing to strike full force. I think that prevention is about striking first. Sexual and reproductive health information, education services and supplies enable people to avoid HIV infection and to protect themselves, their partners and their unborn children from this deadly virus. We know that prevention works and we have a consensus among nations about the need for action. I, too, commend the Department for International Development on the important role that it played in securing international agreement on UNAIDS new prevention policy, "Intensifying HIV prevention", and the EU-adopted statement "HIV Prevention for an AIDS Free Generation".

However, let us face it: it is widely recognised that without a massive scale-up of HIV prevention, the upward trend in the number of people infected will simply continue. That will pose a major threat to the affected countries' ability to sustain progress in tackling the epidemic, to prevent an explosion of the disease, and to provide AIDS treatment. The EU statement underscores the fact that prevention of new infections must remain the cornerstone of a comprehensive AIDS response.

I agree with the Select Committee report: the relatively new focus on treatment should not be allowed to displace the important work that has already been done on HIV prevention. We must talk about HIV/AIDS openly, honestly and directly and act to guarantee prevention, care and treatment for all those who need it. However, the reality on the ground is very different. There is limited funding available for HIV, prevention, treatment and care. I urge DFID not only to continue to balance work on HIV treatment with sustained attention to HIV prevention, but to continue to make prevention its top priority in a comprehensive AIDS response, with linkages between existing sexual reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS and health care services and systems.

As the Government's response states, critical components of a comprehensive evidence-based response are: universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for women, men and young people; provision of accessible and integrated health promotion and harm-reduction services for drug users; reliable access to essential sexual and reproductive health commodities, including male and female condoms; universal access to education and the provision of life skills and sexuality education; the integration of HIV prevention interventions, including voluntary counselling and testing for HIV, into other health services; action to confront and address gender-based violence and to provide protection and support to victims of violence; and supporting investment in modern methods, such as microbicides and vaccines.

The ABC approach—abstain, be faithful, use a condom—adopted by the Bush Administration to assist prevention is not evidence-based. Research from Africa and Asia shows that marriage is not a protective factor. In fact, in some areas, married women are more likely to become infected with HIV than their unmarried counterparts. In marriage, abstinence is not always an option and women are unable, as we heard earlier, to ensure their partner's faithfulness, or condom use. The ABC approach is further eroded by the Bush Administration's promotion of abstinence-only programming. Many NGOs receive substantial funding for HIV prevention, but with restrictions against comprehensive programming, particularly condom use, ABC fails to recognise the complex realities of comprehensive promotion. Therefore, prevention may need to be reinvented to place a greater emphasis on how each new HIV infection takes place within its own political and socio-economic dimension.

That brings me to vulnerable groups and access to treatment. Children, intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men are all mentioned in the report, but women are omitted. I draw hon. Members' attention to the Global Coalition on Women and Aids, which makes the point that at least 57 per cent. of adults with HIV are women, and young women aged 15 to 24 are three times more likely to be infected than young men. Despite that alarming trend, which was mentioned earlier, women know less than men about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, and they know less about how to prevent infections. What little they do know is often rendered useless by the discrimination and violence that they face within and outside the home.

High numbers of pregnant women visiting antenatal clinics are HIV positive. In many southern African countries, more than one in five pregnant women are infected with HIV. The overwhelming majority of children with HIV contract the infection from their mothers during pregnancy or delivery, or through breast feeding. The 700,000 new infections among children in 2003 represent an unacceptable and almost entirely preventable component of the epidemic.

In the UK, mother-to-child transmission has been reduced to less than 2 per cent. due to voluntary counselling and testing, antiretrovirals, elective Caesarean sections and alternatives to breast feeding. In too many places, VCT is still completely absent, and a mere 1 per cent. of pregnant women in heavily infected countries have access to services aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission.

I commend DFID for the important role that it played in securing the G8 commitment to universal antiretroviral treatment provision by 2010. I hope that in the meantime antiretrovirals will reach poor women and their unborn children, as well as young children and wealthy men, and that prevention remains the cornerstone of all activities included in the comprehensive approach that is essential to tackling HIV.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland) 4:18 pm, 11th May 2006

Last week, the nation was shocked by the revelation that 10 new cases of HIV had been discovered in the space of a single month in St. Ives, Cornwall. Headlines grew more hysterical as the story unfolded of a single perpetrator who had, perhaps knowingly, spread the infection through the small town. An expert team of medics was sent directly, a helpline was set up, two new testing clinics were established and my hon. Friend Andrew George issued a call for calm. My thoughts are with those 10 people and their families, whose anxiety must be unbearable.

However, it is not to belittle their suffering to say that that is the reality every single day for many families throughout the world. In the UK, about 19 people are infected with HIV every day. As my hon. Friend John Barrett said, that is still far too many, and it is worrying indeed if the trend of recent years has been an increasing infection rate. Perhaps the safe sex messages that were so strongly accepted in the 1980s and early 1990s are losing some of their resonance.

We are, of course, concerned about cases in the UK, but compare 19 a day with the figure for Africa, which is 8,800. Even taking into account the huge difference in population size, there is a clear disparity. Per capita, if the UK's infection rate was the same as Africa's, every day in our country almost 600 people would be contracting HIV. That would be a major public health emergency. We would be dealing with it at the highest levels of Government. However, in Africa and in many other places in the world there is a much greater problem.

Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates; 37 per cent. of the adult population is HIV-positive. For those people there will be no crack team of medics, no special clinic, no helpline, and their contraction of HIV is by no means headline news. The sad fact is that for many communities in Botswana and across the world HIV is part of the daily reality. Having contracted the infection, the 10 people in St. Ives can expect an average of £15,000 a year to be spent on their care. In Africa, the average per person is £7.

The Government's commitment to funding antiretroviral drugs must be commended, and the Minister and the Secretary of State are to be congratulated on their work in pushing this issue up the agenda. The UK is the world's second biggest bilateral donor on HIV and AIDS. In 2004, DFID said that over the next three years the UK would spend at least £1.5 billion on AIDS-related work. However, it is already clear that that is not enough. In June 2005, UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation estimated that 6.5 million people in developing countries needed immediate antiretroviral treatment, and of those only 15 per cent. were receiving it. While the Government's commitment to aid is substantial, it is still out of balance with their spending on war; the £1.5 billion pledged to aid is dwarfed in comparison with the £3 billion already spent on the war in Iraq, and that figure is likely to rise to £5 billion by the end of the year. Our country must redress the balance of our spending on war and aid. Thirty years late, we are yet to meet the UN target of increasing international aid to 0.7 per cent. of gross national product, although I welcome the Government's commitment to meeting that in the coming years.

Furthermore, in the developing world war and health are inextricably linked. Aid to alleviate poverty and to improve health is an essential safeguard against the escalation of violence. Nowhere is this link between violence and the deterioration of health resources more glaring than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where easily preventable diseases are rampant because the war has destroyed hospitals and other areas of health infrastructure. The most recent report of the International Rescue Committee aid agency found that 1,000 people are dying every day from conditions such as malaria and malnutrition—basic, easily preventable diseases. When one adds HIV and AIDS to the situation, it is easy to see why the health services get stretched to the point where they cannot cope. In the DRC, there are 1.1 million HIV-positive people, which is about 4.5 per cent. of the population.

The report says that the international humanitarian aid to the DRC has been "abysmal" compared with the response to other disasters. In 2003, for example, Iraq received aid worth the equivalent of £75 per person and the DRC received the equivalent of £1.70 per person. There are some excellent aid projects under way to support the testing and treatment of HIV in the DRC, especially the work of the United States Department of Health and Human Sciences, with its Centres for Disease Control and Prevention global AIDS programme, but these projects need more attention from the UK Government. Several Members have spoken about the availability of antiretrovirals in the fight against AIDS. That is partly to do with health and the infrastructure in developing countries, but it is also partly to do with simply access to drugs and being able to afford them.

Unfortunately, the financial barriers faced by developing countries are not always simple. The issue that I believe currently needs most attention is TRIPs—the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights—which is dealt with in paragraph 12 of the Select Committee's report. Protection must be in place to exempt areas that impact on the millennium development goals and global disease control. The current provisions have proved inadequate; we all remember the furore in 2001, when 39 major pharmaceutical companies tried to prosecute the South African Government for passing a law that allowed easy production and importation of generic HIV drugs. There was a good ending to that incident. Following immense pressure from the South African Government, the European Parliament and, not least, 300,000 people from more than 130 countries who signed a petition, the pharmaceutical companies were forced to back down.

I strongly support the Committee's recommendation that the WTO must be persuaded to undertake a review of the implementation of TRIPS, and that DFID should continue to work to build the capacity of developing countries to use TRIPS safeguards, like compulsory licences and Government-use provisions, to facilitate the production and export of affordable medicines, particularly second-line ARVs, which are increasingly important, especially as the disease becomes more resistant and the first-line ARVs become increasingly ineffective. It is perhaps a sign of the difficulty that developing countries have working within the TRIPS provisions that no compulsory licences have been issued.

I am deeply concerned about the future of the agreement that keeps sub-Saharan African countries immune from TRIPS-plus agreements with the United States. Those laws go beyond the requirements of TRIPS to protect intellectual property and are often drawn up as part of bilateral trade agreements with the US, usually involving the US promising better trade and investment to a particular country in exchange for it introducing legislation to protect US intellectual property rights. That may mean restrictions on compulsory licences or parallel importing, and it could mean the extension of patents beyond the standard 20 years suggested by TRIPS.

An Executive order signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000 barred the US Government from asking southern African nations to sign such agreements. President Bush endorsed that when he came to office in 2001, but there is a danger that his Administration, faced with the fact that many generic plants now operate in Africa, will not keep their promise. If the UK Government wish to stand by the promises made at Gleneagles, I urge them to make it clear that such a possibility is intolerable.

We are all aware of the extent of the HIV/AIDS problem. I welcome the Select Committee's excellent report and the spotlight that it is putting on the issue. The Government have made good progress, which is to be commended. I hope that Ministers will take on board the strength of interest that Members of this House and the wider public have in the issue. It is incredibly important that it is given a high priority within Government.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow 4:26 pm, 11th May 2006

I did not intend to speak, but as we have some time available, I thought I might add a few comments.

The debate has been useful and interesting. The International Development Committee's report was also useful. I welcome the comments by its Chairman, Malcolm Bruce, about the intention to return to the subject repeatedly, because doing so would be useful. We have discussed whether the Department for International Development should be setting targets internationally. From the point of view of Parliament in scrutinising what is happening, if the Committee returns regularly to the subject, it would be of great value.

I am pleased that attention is being given to the impact of HIV/AIDS by those who are interested in international development. Eight, nine or 10 years ago, when I was getting involved in the subject in the House, people recognised that AIDS was a huge problem in Africa, but the international development connection was not made. It is made now, and everyone who is involved in such work accepts the central importance of dealing with HIV. That represents real progress.

I shall try not to repeat or to dwell on many of the things that have been said. Points have been made about drugs for children and the malignant effect of current US policy, which is starting to do damage in some African countries.

The commitment to universal access by 2010 is an amazing one when we consider what it involves, particularly if we compare the aim with the current situation. My suspicion is that we probably will not reach the target. We did not reach the three by five target, but that does not mean that it was not worth while. Setting the target changed some attitudes about what we should be doing and trying to do. The three by five target also changed people's views about the ability to deliver antiretrovirals in relatively resource-poor settings. I recall debates on the subject only two, three or four years ago, in which people said, "It is impossible. You can't deliver antiretrovirals in poor countries. It just won't work. People won't adhere to the drugs regimen. They won't understand what it means." All the evidence from the work on three by five is that that is rubbish. It is possible to deliver. People with the opportunity to take the drugs will adhere to the regimen. Rates of adherence compare pretty well with, and in many cases are much better than, rates in the UK, western Europe or the United States. That disproves some of what was said.

The target for four years' time is a challenge. Even if we do not get there—I have doubts about whether we will—the existence of the target, particularly if interim targets are adopted, will lead to progress and change in some of the countries that most need that. We do not even really know the numbers—how many people we aim to treat by 2010—although we know that it is not the same as the number of infections. In many countries with high infection rates, there is not yet sufficiently detailed knowledge about numbers.

My hon. Friend Ms Keeble made important points about what has been happening in Kenya. The problem there is also a problem in other countries, and it will, in time, be a problem in more. If Governments are corrupt or incompetent, we cannot react by saying that we will do nothing for the people in those countries. We will have to find ways around those problems, and that will probably involve NGOs. We will have to find ways to get money and resources to people on the ground, even if Governments are incompetent.

Photo of David Borrow David Borrow Labour, South Ribble

Does my hon. Friend agree that once treatment programmes have been started they must continue, irrespective of what happens to the Governments of the countries in question, or of the instability that might arise later, and that once people have been given the promise of continued life through a drug treatment programme, the developed world cannot take that away? It is a commitment not for five or 10 years, but decades.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

That is absolutely right. We cannot take the commitment away because of a problem with the Government in a country. However—this is another point about universal access by 2010, and the money that it is said is required to fill the gap—billions of pounds will be required not just between now and 2010, but year after year subsequently. It would be unthinkable and immoral to get treatment programmes running and then withdraw the money that allowed them to continue. That demonstrates the importance of prevention. If our answer is simply to pour in drugs and treatment, and if we do nothing about prevention and stopping the rise in the number of infections, the drugs bill will inevitably go up every year, for years ahead. It will not be possible to cope with that if we allow it to happen. It will not be a question of £15 billion or £18 billion a year, but double and treble that figure, if we let infection rates continue to rise.

Another issue that arose with respect to Kenya—again, this is a matter of continuity—was the establishment in one or two places of successful pilot schemes funded bilaterally or by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis andMalaria. At the end of the pilot period, the question arises of where the money for their continuation is to come from. In some cases the money has not appeared. That problem has led to people being given treatment and support—given hope—that is suddenly taken away. That is a difficult one. It is not easy. Sometimes when a pilot ends, it is decided that it has not worked and it is cut off. We cannot guarantee that a pilot project will continue for ever. However, if a pilot runs and is successful, there are questions about why it should not continue and how it should be made to continue.

Jo Swinson referred to TRIPS, which I agree are important. The TRIPS agreement was drawn up before antiretrovirals existed, although it was expected to cover lots of other drugs. At Doha, a waiver was agreed so that in some circumstances public health could override intellectual property rights.

However, that waiver is not an answer to the long-term problems in respect of TRIPS. The newer, more effective drugs will not come out of patent for a long time. Even the very earliest HIV drugs such as azidothymidine are not yet out of patent, although they may be getting pretty close to it. There is a long way to go before some of the newer drugs get to that stage.

I agree with the Committee about the need to assess where we are going. To some degree, the drugs companies have learned lessons from South Africa and the appalling, dreadful publicity it gave them. They will not readily go down that road again. However, that has not solved the problems, and I suspect that if there are no changes to TRIPS, we will be in the situation mentioned by my right hon. Friend Dr. Strang, in which the generics and cheaper drugs will not be available and second line drugs will be required.

I come back to testing and prevention. As I said, we cannot solve the problem by just throwing in drugs and money, because it will go on and on. A false dichotomy used to be presented—that testing and prevention were one thing and drugs were the alternative. However, the approach has to be of a piece; there has to be treatment, testing and prevention. It is pretty obvious why. We cannot persuade people that there is much benefit to being tested if there is nothing to offer them if they test positive. We will have much more success in persuading people to test if there is something to offer them as a result.

Development of testing on a bigger scale is a key to prevention as well. When so many people may suspect but do not know that they are HIV-positive, why should they be too worried about taking precautions against passing on the disease? When we talk about prevention, we focus all our attention on sending messages to uninfected people about how to avoid becoming infected. For some time, I have thought that that is true of this and other countries. We do not do enough to talk to infected people, yet they are the key to prevention, as they can pass on the infection. We do not give that enough attention.

It is not easy. People have to be careful not to blame or stigmatise somebody because he or she is infected. However, there is no question of not paying more attention to effective prevention work with people who are already infected.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

Picking up on something mentioned earlier, does the hon. Gentleman agree that we as parliamentarians, with our contact with parliamentarians in other countries, ought to support those who demand rights and respects When the Committee was in Malawi, the chairman of the social affairs committee there said that it wished to debate violence against women and the rights of women to discuss their sexual rights, but the men on the procedures committee said that that was not important and should not be given parliamentary time.

Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow

That is right. The debate on HIV/AIDS has moved on a long way from regarding it as a medical problem. It is far wider than that: it is a human rights issue and a women's rights issue. We need to face up to that fact.

At the 2001 United Nations General Asembly Special Session, I was with the previous Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend Clare Short, at a meeting where there was a Minister from another country, which shall remain nameless. When we tried to discuss groups such as gay men, who were at high risk, he said, "Well, we don't have a problem. We don't have any gay men in our country: it's illegal. It's not possible." My right hon. Friend's response, which I thought was a good one, was to offer him a bet on that, which absolutely crushed him, rather than try to have an abusive argument.

I hope that when the Select Committee comes back to address the subject it will look broadly across what is happening in the world. We rightly focus a huge amount of attention on Africa, because of the devastation there. However, we should be looking more closely at what is happening in Eurasia. We are now getting general infection levels of 1 per cent. in Russia, elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States and in some of the Baltic states, and an epidemic is growing in India and China, where the capacity for an enormous number of people to be infected is obvious.

We are still at a stage at which, if we get things right, we can avoid an epidemic developing in India, China and Eurasia which will reach African proportions. However, we have a pretty narrow window of opportunity. While looking at what happens across the world in future and returning to the subject in subsequent years, I hope that the Select Committee will take account of that.

Photo of Susan Kramer Susan Kramer Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, International Development 4:43 pm, 11th May 2006

I join those who have congratulated and endorsed the Committee on its work and its conclusions.

The quality, depth and knowledge in the speeches have meant that, as someone who is trying to come up to speed on this and a range of other development issues, I have had a brilliant afternoon, sitting listening to hon. Members speaking with such a level of expertise. I appreciate it. Every voice seems to echo the others; this is an area where we are very much united, which means that we must be able to be more effective.

A number of people have laid out the size of the problem that we face. I shall not stand here and start to repeat strings of numbers. I thank Dr. Strang for setting out the framework and context that we need to understand.

I want to pick up on a point about numbers made by Mr. Gerrard, who spoke about the importance of not looking only at sub-Saharan Africa. Although the numbers are devastating and we recognise that 64 per cent. of new infections occurred last year in sub-Saharan Africa, we should bear in mind that the increase in eastern Europe and central Asia was 25 per cent. We are looking at a burgeoning epidemic, as that 25 per cent. increase brought the numbers up to 1.6 million infected. It is right that we have that broader scope.

As others have said, the world community is starting to respond to the HIV/AIDS tragedy. It is happening among global leaders and political leaders of countries that have had severe problems, and crucially in civil society. It is right to congratulate DFID on raising awareness at all levels, pushing the issue forward, leading the campaigns and especially securing the G8 commitment to universal antiretroviral treatment provision by 2010. As has been said, however, we must pay attention to global funding.

Only a few weeks ago, the global health fund board approved a sixth round of funding—the United Kingdom seconded that motion—but when I last looked at the papers, no other country had committed funds. The replenishment conference for the global fund will take place in Durban in July, and I ask the Minister to tell us a little about the efforts that he intends to make with other donor countries to ensure such replenishment. If it does not happen, we will be looking at an extremely significant and serious problem.

I want to comment on a couple of the report's recommendations. Monitoring and evaluation have been mentioned in various forms this afternoon. I was rather surprised by DFID's comments in the Government's response. I reread the paragraph in question two or three times, but I could not work out quite what was meant. Nevertheless, I sensed a real resistance to those two factors.

We all know the value of scrutiny. It is critical. If we are going to spend the sort of money that we are discussing on HIV/AIDS, we and our parliamentary bodies must be confident that the programmes are delivering what is intended. At the global level, we must be confident that they are delivering what is expected. I wonder whether the Minister can give us some understanding of why the Department is resisting a much more detailed and, I assume, more precise approach to monitoring and evaluation.

I do not understand DFID's resistance to talking with the European Commission about developing a way to lobby the WTO for a review of the TRIPS programme. We heard of two major relevant examples today. Malcolm Bruce spoke about his recent experience in India, where it seems that the TRIPS structure would in a sense permit the undermining of the generic drug that is so vital in dealing with AIDS in India. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and several other Members underscored the significance of developing second-line—soon it will be third-line and fourth-line—retroviral drugs in generic form at affordable prices. If we do not do that, our past work will rapidly be undermined. I do not see why a review of WTO's approach, to discover whether it is working or whether it needs to be adjusted, should be resisted.

A number of hon. Members spoke about the architecture and the way in which the International Monetary Fund and others impact on the world of HIV/AIDS support. In a sense, people are worried about the health infrastructure. The Minister will be aware of rising concern about the way in which HIV/AIDS money is delivered and the functions of the global fund are potentially obscuring the need to build core health delivery systems. How will that balance be addressed?

We have fundamental concerns, as everyone has said, about the lack of care workers. They go out into rural communities, where health structures are almost non-existent and the needs are extreme. Many of the programmes of developing countries are focused on urban centres and capital cities, and vast areas have become an abandoned hinterland.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

Does the hon. Lady accept that in addition to the acute centres, we need a network of community-based care, which can sometimes be provided by faith-based organisations? The real issue is providing drugs, supplies and food through those networks, and ensuring that they are properly utilised and delivered to people in the community.

Photo of Susan Kramer Susan Kramer Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, International Development

The hon. Lady made that point eloquently when she described her experiences in Kenya. The development of civil society and the ability to deliver at community level over a much wider range of issues than just HIV/AIDS are crucial, as others have said.

There is much mention in the report of joined-up thinking across Whitehall and integration with other Departments. I heard on the news earlier this week that the Department of Health is to cut the number of places for nursing training in the UK, on the grounds that there is not a need to keep nursing training in the UK at the levels that it has reached in the past year or so, having been built up from a low base. Two thoughts immediately come to mind. Is the assumption that we have enough nurses going through training and can therefore cut training on the basis of continuing importation of nurses from developing countries? If not, what is the potential to use those spare places to train people who might go back to the developing world at some point? Again, it would be exceedingly helpful if the Minister could say something about joined-up thinking among the various Departments.

A number of hon. Members have referred to the US programme PEPFAR. I hear almost universal concern about its distortion of the delivery of a response to the AIDS crisis in many vulnerable countries and, in particular, about its bias towards treatment over prevention and about a definition of prevention that works with the A and the B, but restricts as much as possible the delivery of the C, the condom, which most people think is the most effective element.

The Government Accountability Office of the US Congress, which is a very influential body, has just issued a serious rebuke to the US President and PEPFAR. I wonder whether DFID could say whether the potential exists to work within Congress to see whether a rebalancing of that programme could be achieved. If the GAO is willing to stand out and make such comments, there must be an underlying potential within Congress itself.

I should also like to ask DFID how it has responded to that reshaping of the delivery of aid by the United States—in effect, that was the question that my hon. Friend Sandra Gidley asked yesterday. Has DFID picked up some programmes that would otherwise have been abandoned? Has it changed the way in which it delivers aid in certain circumstances, in order to become the C, where the United States is playing the role of the A and the B?

Much of the discussion this afternoon has been about vulnerable groups and gaps in treatment. We have heard probably one of the most brilliant speeches that many of us have heard, from Mr. Hunt, on paediatric ARVs and the lack of diagnostic tools. Other hon. Members brought that subject up too. I am sure that we all feel quite stunned that it takes only a single dose of a retroviral at the onset of labour, followed by a second dose when a child is just a few days old, to reduce the transmission of AIDS and HIV by 50 per cent.

I am going to become a grandmother twice this year, and the moment I hear of a child who is ill or suffering from HIV, it is obvious to me that we should put effort and emphasis on the problem and call on the Government to set targets and begin to take it on. However, when I looked at transmission from mother to baby, I was shocked to discover that in almost all cases where intervention takes place during labour and again three days later, so that the child has a good chance of being born HIV-free, there is no treatment for the mother. Women have been saying, "Of course I want to take the drug to benefit my child, but tell me what the value is, if in two years' time I'll be dead myself." We have to start focusing on mothers.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

Does the hon. Lady agree that it is also important to make sure that organisations can supply infant formula feed to mothers, so that they can substitute for breastfeeding? Does she agree that it is outrageous that at present they get only ordinary skimmed powdered milk, and not infant formula?

Photo of Susan Kramer Susan Kramer Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, International Development

I can only agree with the hon. Lady. Obviously, the issue of formula raises the issue of clean water and, as we have said, issues of community support and civic society. I very much take her point.

In 2005, some 17.5 million women were living with HIV and, of those, 13.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. Women are disproportionately represented in the rising numbers of those exposed to AIDS and, as others have said, for many women in some countries, AIDS is in effect a death sentence. When we face that situation, we get some sense of the scope of the work that we have to do on the hidden shame of AIDS. I have heard anecdotally from a couple of colleagues who recently travelled to a number of countries in Africa that because of that shame, it may well be the women who go to the clinic, have themselves tested and are identified as having AIDS. They receive retroviral drugs, which they are to administer themselves, and bring them home, but it is their husband who uses them or else the drug is shared between family members. In effect, that undermines everything that the programme is intended to deliver.

I know from talks with various groups that are active on women's behalf that the problem cannot be tackled unless we challenge the whole issue of the status of women—their education and human rights, and their position and status in local society—and tackle head-on the issue of violence against women. I hope that DFID can give us some assurances on the share of AIDS money that goes to women, because if that issue can be managed, surely it will begin to play a large role in dealing with that imbalance.

Somebody mentioned Zambia—I apologise, but I did not note who it was—when dealing with the subject of women. A recent survey said that in Zambia, fewer than 25 per cent. of women surveyed believed that a wife could refuse sex to her husband, even if he had had multiple partners, and only 11 per cent. thought that they could ask their husband to wear a condom.

I know that I need to bring my remarks to a close, but I briefly want to mention one last issue that I raised in International Development questions yesterday—sexual exploitation. All of us probably took great note of Save the Children's report on Liberia and what it said about aid workers and the military exploiting their positions of power by having sex with young girls who see that as the only way to continue to survive and receive aid that they should receive for free. I asked whether safeguards were in place for money that DFID passes on, either bilaterally or through multilateral agencies, in order to ensure that that does not happen. Sexual exploitation is part of a much wider and bigger picture within many cultures, but I do not have time to explore that. However, I would very much appreciate the Minister's response on that issue.

Photo of Mark Simmonds Mark Simmonds Shadow Minister (International Development) 4:58 pm, 11th May 2006

I join hon. Members in congratulating the Select Committee on putting together an excellent and thankfully brief report, which is pithy and to the point. I also congratulate hon. Members on this extremely high-quality, well informed and knowledgeable debate. I have been impressed by how well travelled they are, and also by their first-hand experience of the problems that we are discussing.

It needs to be said that the Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce, who has been in that position for just under a year, has a growing and excellent reputation. He has done a fantastic job in coalescing the views of the diverse and disparate Members on the Committee. That is a great skill, as is making sure that the Committee comes out with a unified position on this and many other important matters.

The hon. Gentleman's opening remarks were an excellent summary, and I want to draw on four key points. He was right to highlight the discussion on mid-term targets and the differences of opinion between Committee members. He was also right to highlight the complexities of that issue. We all accept that targets do not necessarily always achieve, or contribute to, the ends that they are supposed to achieve. In addition, he rightly highlighted the problem with treating children and orphans.

The hon. Gentleman was correct to assess the complications that exist with budgetary support and targets, and in the relationship between the International Monetary Fund and individual country performance. DFID and the Minister would probably acknowledge that much more work needs to be done on those.

The hon. Gentleman rightly analysed the abstinence argument, and I draw hon. Members' attention to what happened in Uganda. A little while ago, the main thrust of its programme to control HIV/AIDS was the use of condoms. Relatively recently, it changed to more of an abstinence argument, and the impact has been a growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS. I understand the moral arguments of that approach, but there is growing evidence that it does not work in practice. On that basis, my party agrees with the strategy supported by DFID, the Secretary of State and the Minister.

My hon. Friend Mr. Hunt made a superb speech. It was not only intelligent and informative, but moving in parts. He was absolutely right when he said that antiretroviral drugs are not enough, and he went on to explain why. He was also correct to highlight mother-to-child transmission, something discussed by Susan Kramer, and to highlight the problems in conflict areas, giving the DRC as an example. Darfur and northern Uganda should also be mentioned, because rape and sexual violence are used there as weapons of war. DFID and other international donors must co-operate with the United Nations and military forces on the ground to try to eradicate that appalling behaviour.

My hon. Friend led an extraordinarily successful campaign for interim targets to meet the 2010 target. I am delighted that, despite the complexities of the issue, the British Government have taken up his suggestion, which was supported by Mr. Gerrard and 248 others in this House. It will be put to the United Nations at the meeting at the end of May and beginning of June. If my hon. Friend is successful, he will have achieved something extraordinary for somebody who has been in the House for just over a year. He may change global policy through his personal efforts, and he should be congratulated on that.

Ms Keeble has been a consistent advocate of improving the lot of HIV/AIDS sufferers, particularly children. She spoke with great knowledge. She was right to discuss paediatric formulae and the necessity of improving diagnostics, especially on the ground, and she made a good point about access to antiretrovirals.

My hon. Friend Alistair Burt was right to highlight the importance of diet, and he gave some good examples. I want to thank him for the excellent work that he does with World Vision, which tries to improve the lot of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, but I am sure that he would be the first to acknowledge that it is not the only worthwhile organisation involved in this sector.

Opposition Members recognise DFID's contribution. We recognise that the UK is the second largest bilateral donor on AIDS and that it donates one of the highest proportions of gross national income to AIDS projects. We welcome the £1.5 billion that has been committed by the Government to tackle the disease over the next three years, and the recent additional £20 million pledged by the Prime Minister for the international AIDS vaccine initiative.

The Opposition are interested in and welcome the global steering committee on scaling up access to antiretroviral drugs, primarily because it is independent and transparent, and its monitoring systems are vital to ensuring that aid is effective. I agree with the hon. Member for Richmond Park that if it is possible to do such work and to have the regionalisation strategy that DFID has put in place in Latin America, why is it not possible to do that elsewhere in the DFID budget, which is growing, as it rightly should?

I have some questions for the Minister about how the global steering committee will work. Will there be standardisation of reporting structures so that there is a means of comparison between countries, to ensure that those that do not meet the requirements and targets are assisted by being able to identify the problems?

We acknowledge the three ones principle to create one AIDS action framework, one national AIDS authority and one monitoring and evaluation system in each country. It will be helpful if the Minister could inform us of the number of countries that have implemented that principle to date, the number that are working towards doing so and the time scale involved in those countries implementing the three ones principle. It will be interesting to know whether DFID has given any thought to how the three ones initiative will fit in with the monitoring and evaluation reference group, and how they will co-ordinate with each other to ensure the maximum impact on the ground.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow rightly mentioned the three by five initiative. While it was worth while in setting out the structure and architecture of the programme, sadly it did not have the impact that we all hoped it would have. Only 550,000 people were receiving antiretroviral drugs at the end of last year against a target of 3 million. I hope that DFID has learned serious lessons so that that failure will not be repeated and the 2010 target will be met, or that we get as close as possible to meeting it.

In the report, the Committee rightly stated that there were problems with the three by five initiative, particularly its highly vertical nature. I would be interested to hear the Minister elucidate—perhaps not today, but at another time—how he will ensure that that mistake will not be made again and how country strategies will fit in with donor responsibilities for ensuring that British taxpayers' money and taxpayers' money in other countries is spent where it is supposed to be spent, so that we get the maximum impact on the ground.

There was an interesting exchange between Mr. Borrow, who made a thoughtful contribution, and the hon. Member for Walthamstow. They discussed the necessity of continuing the funding of antiretrovirals and other resources to combat HIV/AIDS as we go forward. We cannot have a situation in which countries, particularly in Africa, are dependent in perpetuity on developed countries giving them money. We must facilitate their economic growth to enable them to trade and build their own infrastructure so that they can pay for their health care systems. That will particularly help those countries that have significant and large rural populations, which are difficult to access in the normal course of events. We support the Government in their current difficult discussions to try to resolve the Doha round of trade talks, which could play a major role in facilitating at least the start of that process.

The Committee was right to highlight the position of, and the difficulties with, vulnerable groups, and much has been said about that. I want to make one or two points about children and orphans. There is no doubt that very few companies so far have shown an interest in developing accurate, simple and affordable tests for diagnosing HIV/AIDS in children. Much greater interest and attention needs to be given to paediatric treatment.

Packaging antiretrovirals in doses suitable for children is another point that my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey made. We must focus on reducing the cost of paediatric antiretrovirals, which are currently six times more expensive than standard antiretrovirals for adults. DFID needs to work with the international community to ensure that children are included in the international and national treatment targets. As children grow, their development necessitates a change in their treatment. What is DFID's strategy for HIV prevention and treatment specifically for children, especially as malnutrition hinders effective antiretroviral treatment?

John Barrett made a good point—we have debated it before, so I shall not repeat it—about the coterminosity between HIV and TB, and the necessity of ensuring that those with HIV are tested for TB and vice versa. We must ensure that those whose tests are positive receive all the drugs they require, and not just those for one of the diseases that they have.

The Committee made an interesting point about coherence. I would like to know how the Minister is implementing "Taking Action", which is an attempt to tackle the problems of coherence, and what steps DFID is taking to ensure co-ordination and coherence between the different programmes through the non-governmental, multilateral and bilateral organisations that it funds.

All hon. Members, not just members of the Select Committee, want to ensure that the maximum amount of antiretroviral drugs reaches the maximum number of people as fast as possible, and DFID needs to address three things quickly. The first is resistance to drugs, about which Jo Swinson was absolutely right. It is important, because of the cost, that there is a swift and effective transition from the provision of first-line to second-line and, subsequently, to third-line and fourth-line antiretroviral drugs.

The second point involves delivery on the ground. As well as provision of the drugs, there must be strategies to ensure that there are effective methods of transportation, refrigeration, delivery on the ground and monitoring of treatments. The third point concerns generic drugs and the TRIPS agreement. Like the hon. Member for Richmond Park, I was slightly surprised by the Government response to the report. TRIPS is important and has been relatively successful at creating a new programme, but there needs to be flexibility, increased capacity, assistance on the ground and capacity-building in Governments to purchase generic drugs.

Fairly recently, the former director of the World Health Organisation's HIV/AIDS programme suggested the designation of a "humanitarian corridor" within which leading drugs manufacturers would allow rivals to produce drugs at low prices for modest royalties, with the purpose of allowing people in developing countries to benefit as fast as practically possible. That is a good idea.

To meet millennium development goal 6, which is to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015, strong strategies are needed for prevention as well as treatment. If the Government go down that route, Opposition Members will be very supportive.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I call the Minister to wind up what has been an excellent debate.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:12 pm, 11th May 2006

I agree with your characterisation of the debate as excellent, Sir Nicholas. That is largely due to the quality of the work done by the Select Committee. I pay tribute to the contributions of members of the Committee and particularly to the leadership of the Committee by Malcolm Bruce. I am not sure that I would go as far as Mark Simmonds in hoping that the Committee continues to be so powerfully led all the time. Nevertheless, I welcome the interest and the commitment of the Committee and particularly of the hon. Member for Gordon to reviewing annually our work on HIV and AIDS.

The debate demonstrates powerfully the commitment of hon. Members on both sides of the House to addressing this issue. It also reflects the passion among many of our constituents, who want to see progress. In that respect, I pay tribute to the advocacy work and the direct services that many organisations based in the UK provide in sub-Saharan Africa in particular and in the developing world more generally. Alistair Burt mentioned World Vision. Others mentioned Save the Children, UNICEF and many other NGOs with which we are familiar.

The report that we are debating was published in late November 2005 for world AIDS day and much has changed in the time since then. The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness rightly drew attention to the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on world AIDS day of a further £20 million to help to accelerate progress towards vaccines, which Mr. Hunt mentioned.

What was also important about world AIDS day was the review of the state of the AIDS epidemic. Many of the contributions in this debate rightly focused on the severity of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, but as my hon. Friend Mr. Gerrard made clear, we cannot afford to take our eye off the growing epidemics in eastern Europe and central and east Asia. The UNAIDS report referred to that point, and highlighted the increasing epidemics in China, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.

My hon. Friend also mentioned India. We are seeing signs that serious epidemics might be about to start in Pakistan and Indonesia. As my hon. Friend Mr. Borrow said, there is a significant difference between the way in which the epidemic is being driven in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. In Asia, it is driven particularly by marginalised groups, whereas the driving factor in sub-Saharan Africa tends to be heterosexual sex. We must recognise those differences, and nuance our responses accordingly.

Another change to the landscape since the Committee published its report is the launch of round 6 of the global fund. My right hon. Friend Dr. Strang and Susan Kramer drew attention to the serious lack of funding in the global fund's finances for round 6—it has just $46 million, I believe. We know that Spain has just made a commitment and that a further sum is due from the European Commission now that its budget headline figures have been resolved. Obviously, we will use our leverage to try to secure as large a sum as possible for the global fund from the European Commission.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already written to G8 Heads of State to draw their attention to the need to commit more resources to the global fund for round 6, and similarly, he hopes to speak to the business community soon to encourage it to make contributions. We are also lobbying oil-rich states that have not yet made significant contributions into the global fund. I hope that, in that way, further resources can be made available.

The hon. Member for South-West Surrey rightly drew attention to the broader estimates of funding gaps for spend on HIV/AIDS—broader than the issues of global fund financing. If we are to address those long-term gaps, we have to make sure that G8 and other nations follow through on their pledges of assistance that were delivered at Gleneagles and confirmed at the millennium review summit. We must also recognise that even those resources will not be enough on their own. That is why it is so important to get innovative sources of financing up and running; why we are working with the French on their idea for a ticket levy; and why we continue to pursue the international finance facility. The excellent progress made by the international finance facility for immunisation is a powerful demonstration of the IFF concept. We continue to make the case that people should support the major IFF.

The G8 presidencies of our Russian friends and our German friends next year will provide further opportunities to focus on financing for AIDS. In that respect, I welcome the fact that President Putin has prioritised infectious diseases as one of the development issues on which he wants to focus.

The points made by my hon. Friend Ms Keeble about the need to ensure that both future and current financing get to community organisations is extremely well made. Other hon. Members asked about coherence across government. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Ms Winterton, and I went to Malawi and Zambia last year, and looked at issues such as health workers—an issue to which I shall return—and blockages to resources from the global fund, World Bank and other bilateral donors. As a result of pressure from her and the experience in Malawi and Zambia, that issue was discussed at the global partners forum in February. The experience gained there will help us to continue to unblock access to those funding streams.

Obviously, in countries whose Governments are committed to reducing poverty and addressing HIV/AIDS epidemics, we will be able to make faster progress in getting more resources to the grass-roots level. Indeed, in Malawi, there were encouraging signs that funding was getting through to many community organisations, although more still needed to be done. In countries such as Zimbabwe and Burma, where we have to set up systems completely outside and outwith the Government because of corruption and other problems, it can take longer to ensure that community organisations get access to financing. We take the issue extremely seriously and we are busy working on it.

As the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness made clear, through our joint chairmanship with UNAIDS of the global steering committee, we have been following through on the commitments made at the G8 and the millennium review summit on universal access to try to come up with a plan that can be adopted by the international community at the UN General Assembly special session in June. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will lead the delegation, again demonstrating the coherent approach across Government to the issue. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Caroline Flint, who has responsibility for public health, will also be part of that delegation.

The hon. Member for Boston and Skegness alluded to the fact that interim targets have been incorporated in the country plans that we have encouraged countries to adopt. I take issue with the point raised by John Bercow that we should set targets ourselves as a donor. I understand the initial attraction of such a concept as a way to track how our funding is being used, but if we want to make faster progress in a developing country, we need targets to be owned and accepted by that country's Government. Indeed, all donors, not just the British Government, need to get behind such targets. That is why the lengthy consultation process undertaken by the global steering committee—UNAIDS deserves praise for the way in which it has gone about its work in drawing up plans—offers substantial encouragement that we will get as close as we can to universal access by 2010.

I do not accept the doom and gloom about the three by five initiative, although I recognise that only about 1.3 million out of the 6 million people in developing countries who need access to antiretrovirals are gaining access to those drugs. I do not accept it precisely for the reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow: the initiative has galvanised attention on what must be done to address the issues.

That is where the point about broader health systems comes in. We need to recognise that it is not possible to solve the problem of HIV/AIDS in a vacuum. It is necessary to develop much stronger health systems, and not only to provide drugs at affordable prices, but to continue training health workers so that they can support people not just in towns and cities, where it is often easier to get access to a health worker, but in rural areas. I and the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central, saw a programme in Malawi, which the Department is funding, that will increase the number of nurses and doctors over the next six years. Part of that programme involves ensuring through VSO that trainers are training future trainers in Malawi so that the process is sustainable in the longer term, as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness and others have made clear.

Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

Does my hon. Friend accept that networks of health visitors are in place, run by community-based and faith-based organisations, but there is no funding going downstream, so they are not getting access to things? They exist, they are trained and they know what to do, but they do not have any resources.

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, Party Chair, Co-operative Party

My hon. Friend draws attention to two problems: the broader problem of funding, on which I have recognised that more money must be made available, and the issue of co-ordination. We need to ensure that all those contributing to the fight against AIDS in a developing country, whether they are small NGOs or major donors, are working through the three ones process to one national plan, with one national monitoring and evaluation framework, under the leadership of one national AIDS commission. Where those three processes are effective, the types of problem to which my hon. Friend alluded can be more effectively addressed. The last thing we need is donors having different plans about how they will operate in a country. In such situations, plans often overlap and donors do not think through how each is working in different ways.

Several hon. Members have mentioned the relationship that we have with our friends across the Atlantic. I pay tribute to the work of Randall Tobias, the US global AIDS co-ordinator, who has worked extremely closely with us within the mandate given to him by Congress. We work closely in several sub-Saharan African countries. Along with other donors, we examine what each of us is doing, where there are gaps in the response that is necessary and which of us can deal with them.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear at questions yesterday, and as both of us have made clear before, we take a different view from the Americans on abstinence and on issues such as our support to drug-users who inject. We continue to have debates on such matters with them. John Barrett alluded to the fact that we had such debates last year on the prevention policy of UNAIDS. We are having them in the run-up to the UN General Assembly special session, and it is important that we continue to have them. We have a strong view. I welcome the fact that our view and approach are endorsed by the vast majority of Members of the House; I wish there was 100 per cent. endorsement, but there is not. We will continue to advance our position.

Several hon. Members raised the issue of the relationship with the IMF and the concerns that a number of NGOs have expressed about its adverse influence on public health investment. I am sure that hon. Members will be pleased to know that in his note for the high-level meeting, the Secretary-General made it clear that he expects the IMF and the World Bank to initiate a much more transparent process to ensure the necessary fiscal space for AIDS spending. Members who have followed the issue will be aware of problems that arose in Zambia, and they will be pleased to know that the issues appear to have been resolved.

My hon. Friends the Members for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) and for Walthamstow rightly pointed out the need to focus not only on antiretrovirals, but on the much broader response to the epidemic that is needed, with the broader focus on sexual and reproductive health rights that must be part of the prevention response.

I hope that all hon. Members have had the chance to see the European Union's statement on world AIDS day, which sought to refocus attention on the importance of prevention. We were responsible for its drafting, and I commend it to hon. Members as an example of the type of comprehensive response that is necessary. We hope that the UN General Assembly special session that starts at the end of this month will endorse a full and comprehensive response. In particular, we hope that it will endorse ambitious country-led plans and support the belief that no effective, properly audited, ambitious country-led plan should remain unfinanced. That is why raising further funds is so important.

The chairmen of the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health and the all-party group on AIDS and, my hon. Friends the Members for Calder Valley and for Walthamstow, will join my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley, who has responsibility for public health, and representatives from four UK NGOs, including several people who are living with HIV, in that delegation.

I shall bring to the Secretary of State's attention the specific point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North about groups that have focused on the problems about resources getting down to community level.

I am conscious that I have not answered hon. Members' questions about antiretroviral drugs and the relationship with pharmaceutical companies. I will write to hon. Members who have participated in this debate to let them know our approach to engaging more with those companies. Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I meet such companies on a regular basis and encourage them to do more in terms of differential pricing. It is not quite as bleak a picture as many have suggested. I shall write on other points too.

It being half-past Five o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.