HC Deb 18 January 2000 vol 342 cc676-7
5. Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries)

If he will raise the issue of HIV-AIDS in the developing world at the next G8 summit in Japan. [104192]

9. Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)

What plans he has to ensure that the G8 summit in Japan will discus the impact that HIV-AIDS is having on the developing world. [104196]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain)

Health and, in particular, HIV-AIDS is one of the issues on which we place priority for this year's G8 summit at Okinawa. We are working with the Japanese presidency and G8 partners to get it high on the agenda.

Mr. Brown

I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that, across the African continent, there is a wide variation in the way in which different Governments tackle the issue of HIV and AIDS. For example, in Uganda, some excellent work is going on. However, in other countries, there is serious concern that the money that should have gone into HIV and AIDS programmes is being diverted into other areas. Will my hon. Friend ensure that the good practice that is being seen in certain countries is promoted in others, especially in countries where we suspect that Governments are not taking the issue as seriously as we would hope?

Mr. Hain

Yes, I shall certainly do that. My hon. Friend raises an excellent point. In Uganda, I visited at Entebbe a health centre financed in part by the British Government that is helping to drive forward an excellent programme. Its importance compared with other countries in Africa is that the Ugandan President has put himself at the head of the campaign. As a result of imaginative measures, such as pop songs, condom distribution, billboards and other initiatives, the rate of infection in Uganda is at last slowing. That is certainly not the case elsewhere in Africa.

Mr. Gerrard

May I welcome the lead that the Government have given, the money that has been committed over the next three years and, especially, the £14 million that has been given to the international AIDS vaccine initiative? Will my hon. Friend encourage other G8 countries to take similar action, so that we have a common approach that recognises the devastating economic impact of HIV as well as the health aspects? Will he also raise at the summit the question of how we ensure that, in the future, people in developing countries have access to new treatments and that we do not have a repetition of the problems that were faced in South Africa last year, when pharmaceutical companies tried to stop the compulsory licensing of drugs by the South African Government?

Mr. Hain

Again, my hon. Friend makes excellent points with which I agree. I stress his point about the economic impact of AIDS. In Zimbabwe, for example, one in four adults is infected. That is hitting not just ordinary people, but those right at the top of the country and it will have a devastating effect on the country's future professional life and economic expertise.

That is why the Prime Minister's initiative at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference last November, to which my hon. Friend referred indirectly, and Vice-President Gore's initiative last week when he called for war on AIDS at the United Nations security conference, are so much to be welcomed.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, while the important matter of HIV-AIDS will be dealt with at the G8 conference as a discrete matter, the G8 should take care also to recognise the many other serious diseases by which poorer countries in particular are afflicted? Does he agree that the G8, which must on occasion be one of the smuggest gatherings that the world could ever see, has a duty to recognise that prosperity and health are the only ways in which some poorer countries will struggle out of the serious position in which they find themselves?

Mr. Hain

The hon. Gentleman makes such a convincing case that he should perhaps cross the Floor, as some of his colleagues have done. I agree that epidemics, such as malaria in some parts of Africa, are a bigger challenge than AIDS and should be high on the G8 agenda, and that the G8 should take its responsibilities seriously, not least because, ultimately, widespread epidemics in the developing world threaten our security, environmental and health interests in the west.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park)

Does the Minister agree that conflict and civil war are great factors in the spread of HIV and AIDS, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa? When will he do something about the activities of arms brokers which fuel those wars and continue the agony in Africa?

Mr. Hain

Again, the hon. Lady makes a point that I agree with. We have taken a series of initiatives—for example, we have pressed the Ukrainian Government to tackle their arms dealers to ensure that they stop supplying areas of conflict in Africa, including Angola in the form of supplies to UNITA. We need to keep pressing that case, and our policy is in complete contrast to that of the Conservative Government, who seemed to want to encourage the sale of arms to just about everybody in sight.

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