HC Deb 10 March 1987 vol 112 cc139-41
7. Mr. John Townend

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement on the progress of the campaign to limit the spread of AIDS.

Mr. Fowler

Our objectives are to ensure that the public are given the facts about AIDS, the threat that it poses, how infection is transmitted and how the spread can be prevented. The results of the latest Gallup survey, which was commissioned by the Department, show encouraging progress towards these objectives. We are currently considering our strategy for the next stages of the campaign.

Mr. Townend

Will my right hon. Friend accept that there is public concern that his campaign has been evenhanded between homosexual and hetrosexual activity, although the spread of AIDS has come, principally, through the homosexual community? Will he tell the House what proportion of those who, unfortunately, have died from the disease have been homosexuals? Does he agree that the time has come to ban homosexual propaganda in schools, on television, in newspapers and in other forms of the media?

Mr. Fowler

As to schools, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. With regard to his major question, he is quite correct that the disease and the number of deaths have, predominately been among homosexuals. On the other hand, we must take account of the cases among drug users sharing needles and heterosexuals. We know that the AIDS virus can spread heterosexually, and therefore it is right that we should be prudent about the information that we give to the public on how we can prevent that.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the Secretary of State aware that thus far the Select Committee on Social Services has identified certain sectors where much more help will be needed? Does he agree that there is an urgent need for many more clinical medical posts; an urgent need for many more counsellors to counsel patients; that there will shortly be an acute need for more hospice places and that there is an urgent need for the proper education of children in schools about how to avoid the AIDS disease?

Mr. Fowler

The Government look forward to the report of the Select Committee on Social Services. The Government have shown, by the resources that they have devoted to public education and research, the importance that they place on fighting the spread of this virus.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, even though the heterosexual community is at risk of AIDS contamination, the time has come for the Government to make it clear that by far the greatest degree of risk is posed by drug abusers and sexual perverts? Is it not about time that we concentrated on pointing out where the responsibility lies for the spread of this disease?

Mr. Fowler

My hon. Friend is correct in that the responsibility is an individual responsibility and, clearly, what he says about homosexuals and drug users is right. The next stages of the campaign will be directed specifically to those areas, as will advertising.

Mr. Duffy

Does the Secretary of State believe that exhortation, determent or even terror will be adequate? Those measures are not sufficing in the United States, where nearly 1.5 million people are infected, quite apart from the dead and dying. Does he not think that in the next stage of his campaign he should point out, without preaching, that there are moral choices available on behalf of the family and the community?

Mr. Fowler

Indeed. In the campaign we have always made it clear that it is not just safer but best to rely on a faithful, loving relationship and I have sought to make that clear at every stage. However, we need to say something more than that and to give direct and straightforward health education messages. I hope that, in addition to the Government's public education campaign, the churches will conduct their own campaigns. Those campaigns would be complementary and there is a need for them.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about his talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the best way to get the moral and the educational messages across, particularly to younger children?

Mr. Fowler

Just before the weekend, my right hon. Friend issued a new leaflet on AIDS for teachers, and he will also be providing video information for schools. Both he and I are absolutely determined that the dangers of the spread of AIDS are made known in a responsible way in the schools.