HC Deb 24 February 2004 vol 418 cc137-8
10. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con)

What the change has been in the incidence of HIV/AIDS over the last 12 months; and what the reasons are for the change. [155727]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health(Miss Melanie Johnson)

There have been 5,047 new cases of HIV infection reported in the United Kingdom so far in 2003. That is a 20 per cent. increase on the 4,204 cases reported at the same time last year. The main contributory factors are more people getting tested and the ongoing transmission of HIV infection in the UK, particularly among gay men.

Sir Teddy Taylor

There are wide regional variations in the incidence of the disease, which imposes an enormous burden on health service provision. Will the Minister take account of the incidence of HIV/AIDS in assessing health service funding?

Miss Johnson

That is reflected in a variety of ways. Unless the hon. Gentleman has some new evidence, there is no indication that there is a problem with funding for treatment or diagnosis. All the evidence shows that the funding of treatment for HIV is working well.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) Lab)

Will my hon. Friend accept that those who are HIV-positive or AIDS sufferers almost inevitably tend to congregate in certain large cities or towns, where the incidence of HIV/ AIDS is greater than that in the general population? Is she certain that funding properly meets both the health needs of those people and the general requirement to fund health authorities in the wider community?

Miss Johnson

We always try to ensure that distribution reflects need. Obviously, the formulae that are used help us to do that in terms of the resources that are made available at primary care trust level. There is separate funding for work with African communities, for example, and for work being done with the Terence Higgins Trust, which reflects some of needs of the southeast and one or two other centres in the UK.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)

The Minister is being unduly conservative because, while the total figures are not in yet, it is estimated that HIV cases for last ye ar will be more than 7,000, which is well above a 20 per cent. increase on 2002. Is she happy that today there are 208 genito-urinary medicine clinics, exactly the same number as in 1997? Despite the herculean efforts of greatly pressured staff, services are deteriorating and waiting times have doubled since 2000. Why is there still no national service framework for sexual health and why has she not taken up our idea of appointing a public health commissioner with a brief to tackle the crisis?

In the midst of all that, last Christmas, the Department of Health spent £60,000 on a website carol entitled, "The 12 STIs of Christmas", with a chorus of dancing stick figures graphically suffering assorted sexually transmitted infections and displaying their inflamed genitals, with such lines as: On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…genital herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, and a discharge that is hourly. It does not even scan. Is that the best that the Government can do?

Miss Johnson

To start with, we believe in acting on facts. The facts are important. The hon. Gentleman tries to make a point about investment. One of the points that he makes is about targets, but the Conservatives have complained repeatedly about targets—[Interruption.] He mentioned an NSF, which involves the use of standards and targets. In terms of the national strategy—[Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Loughton should allow the Minister to reply.

Miss Johnson

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For the first time, there is a national strategy to improve sexual health and to modernise services. We have backed the strategy with initial investment of £47.5 million, plus a further £40 million over the next two years. In addition, a further £11.4 million was announced in response to concerns raised by the Health Committee and stakeholders, and a further £15 million of capital has been provided to modernise GUM premises. That is the record on which the Government will fight. The hon. Gentleman fights on a record of disinvestment in health services and would do well to bear that in mind in his questioning.