HL Deb 23 July 1990 vol 521 cc1186-8

2.38 p.m.

Baroness Dudley asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many AIDS patients there are in the United Kingdom; what medical care facilities are available to them; and what the results have been of the publicity programme to warn young people of the dangers of the disease.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hooper)

My Lords, information available to the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre suggests that there are 1,564 people with AIDS in the United Kingdom. Inherent delays in the reporting of new cases and deaths mean that this can only be an approximate figure. The full medical facilities of the National Health Service are available to patients with AIDS, plus support from social services departments and voluntary agencies. Research shows that the public education campaigns have resulted in a high level of awareness of the way in which HIV is spread but suggests that continuing efforts are necessary to secure and sustain behaviour changes.

Baroness Dudley

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, can she say whether she is satisfied with what is being taught in schools as regards the danger of AIDS?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, the Government are determined to do everything necessary to prevent the spread of HIV infection. In that regard, one important focus of our efforts must be the education of young people about the risks of infection. Education material has been produced by the Department of Education and Science and the Health Education Authority for use in secondary schools in the context of wider teaching about personal and social responsibility. Your Lordships will remember the efforts made in this House on the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 in this respect. In addition, we have asked health authorities to pay particular attention to the local needs of young people in devising programmes of HIV prevention.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I welcome the assurances given by the Minister. However, can she explain why there are such large regional differences in the spread of AIDS in the statistics in her department's publication Regional Trends? Further, as regards the figure of 1,822 in the report regarding those who are HIV-positive, can she explain why only one-sixth of the UK total are drug users when in Scotland it is 50 per cent. and in Wales only 5 per cent? Does she understand that extraordinary difference in the published figures?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, it may be helpful in answering the noble Lord's query if I tell him that we are placing in the Library copies of the AIDS-HIV Quarterly Surveillance Tables. These are produced by the Public Health Laboratory Service AIDS Centre and by the Communicable Diseases (Scotland) Unit and contain detailed data on HIV and AIDS which may be useful to many of your Lordships, especially the noble Lord, Lord Ennals.

There is always a problem as regards figures because of under-reporting, and there may sometimes be a time-lag in the published figures as there is bound to be an interval between diagnosing a case and reporting it to the surveillance centre. I think that the noble Lord was asking especially about the interrelation between AIDS and drugs. Therefore, the noble Lord may find it useful to refer to the report which I mentioned.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. However, there must be a very profound or precise reason why there seems to be 10 times the proportion of drug users with HIV in Scotland than in Wales. Is there any explanation which the noble Baroness can give the House?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, there may indeed be a precise reason for this difference. However, I am not in a position at present to be able to respond to the noble Lord with that sort of precision.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, how does one person catch the complaint from another person?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as always, the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, asks a difficult question. We know of 993 people who have been infected with HIV through normal heterosexual intercourse. We also know of about 4,000 people who have been infected as a result of intravenous drug misuse, haemophiliacs and others who have been affected by infected blood products. That is as far as I can go at the moment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are some excellent care models in London for AIDS sufferers, many of whom are helped by volunteers; but that there is a lack of facilities outside London? Can she do something about it?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, there are a number of important and useful local initiatives, some of which take place in London. The education programme to which I referred in response to the Question on the Order Paper is a national programme for schools. The Health Education Authority's programme is a national one. We are making every effort to ensure that when any local initiatives prove useful information about them will be disseminated so that they can be used in other areas.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, it is with considerable diffidence that I refer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. He asked how the disease was transmitted. My noble friend omitted to say anything about homosexuality. I am not casting a moral judgment, but should not the Government give the correct answers rather than, from understandable embarrassment, give incorrect answers?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, my noble friend, is as usual, right.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I was going to ask a supplementary question similar to that asked by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. If figures for two causes of HIV are printed in Hansard, the figures for HIV caused by homosexual activities between males should be recorded in Hansard. Will the noble Baroness give us those figures or, if not, will she arrange for them to be printed in the Official Report?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, yes, I realise that there is some difficulty in that the figures that I quoted in answer to the Question on the Order Paper relate to the number infected as of this moment, whereas the figures I quoted in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, obviously have to be subtracted from the total figure. I shall try to arrange for the appropriately extracted figures to be made available to the noble Lord.