HIV

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:15 pm on 1st December 2010.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 4:15 pm, 1st December 2010

No, it will be a sexual health strategy. The Government and the NHS need to play their part, and we need to support individuals to make responsible lifestyle choices. We continue to provide the very best HIV treatment services, but others have a role to play and they are often better placed than the Government to make a difference. The hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington mentioned the role of churches in that regard and they can have a significant impact.

Voluntary community groups, industry, responsible media, churches and faith groups all have a part to play. That collaboration is so important in tackling stigma and discrimination, which is still a very real issue for many people affected by HIV. That is particularly important within those communities who find sexual health issues more challenging than other communities.

Stigma means that people refuse tests, do not take precautions and do not go for treatment. I was delighted to see that the Prime Minister highlighted the issue of stigma in his world AIDS day podcast. Tackling HIV is everyone's business and we can all make a difference to reduce stigma, reduce new infections and enable people living with HIV to lead full and productive lives.

The hon. Member for Inverclyde raised issues about global funds. I am sure that he will also raise those issues with my colleagues in the Department for International Development. However, as my ministerial brief also covers EU health, it may be of note for him to realise that such issues are recognised by many people within Europe and across the world, and we continue to work both nationally-within our own member states-and internationally, because collectively we can do a great deal to help each other.

The hon. Gentleman also said that generally a one-size-fits-all approach does not work and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hove said, anonymous testing and treatment is often crucial. We will announce our commissioning intentions soon. However, the hon. Gentleman's point is well made.

I think that it was Mr Brown who mentioned the issue of commissioning services in rural areas, which poses particular challenges and very real problems. It is absolutely crucial that we get that commissioning right. We will announce our intentions soon and I hope that they will address some of the points that he raised.

We need to talk about sex. We need to talk about people's sexual health. We need to talk about people's responsibilities in looking after their sexual health, and we all have something to offer and we all have something that we can do personally, particularly those of us who are Members of Parliament. As MPs, we have unprecedented access to media, particularly in our local areas. We need to do everything that we can to express the fact that this is everybody's business and that people need to take responsibility for their sexual health. Their sexual health not only affects them; it affects the others around them and their families too. Only then will we be able to see a future for people living with HIV/AIDS that we all want to see.