§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he proposes to take to check the growth rates of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
We are considering the public health implications of AIDS and what further steps might be taken to control it. We have established an expert advisory group to advise the health departments in the United Kingdom, whose members will include experts on all aspects of the disease. Their advice will be valuable in assisting the formulation of a strategy for prevention and control.
There is at present no vaccine against AIDS or specific treatment, but general preventive measures and health education have a major part to play in controlling the disease.
Interim guidelines drawn up by the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens on the safe handling of AIDS patients have recently been published jointly by our Department and the Health and Safety Commission. These set out the measures which should be taken to protect clinical and laboratory staff who come into contact with patients suffering from AIDS or with specimens taken from them. We are taking steps to reduce the risk of the spread of AIDS through blood transfusion and the use of 347W blood products. We are strengthening our efforts to dissuade those in AIDS high-risk groups from donating blood, and our revised leaflet "AIDS Important New Information for Blood Donors" will be distributed individually to all donors. We are also considering the need to screen blood donations for the HTLV III antibody. Supplies of heat-treated factor VIII for haemophiliacs will shortly be made available to the NHS from the Central Blood Laboratories Authority.
To promote greater awareness of the risks of the disease, the Health Education Council has produced a leaflet "Some facts about AIDS" which will be made widely available to individuals in at-risk groups and the public generally.
Internationally, we are in touch with the Centers for Disease Control in the United States and the World Health Organisation AIDS Reference Centre in Paris, which have considerable data on the disease. Research in this country is proceeding through five projects funded by the Government through the Medical Research Council.
§ Mr. David Atkinson
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a notifiable disease; and if sufferers are able to discharge themselves from hospital voluntarily.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take immediate steps to make acquired immune deficiency syndrome a notifiable disease.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
This disease is not at present notifiable under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 but each case is reported to the communicable disease surveillance centre, which monitors incidence in the United Kingdom. Patients with Aids can discharge themselves from hospital voluntarily. Making the disease notifiable would not alter this situation unless a local authority exercised its discretionary powers under the 1984 Act to ask a justice of the peace to make an order detaining a patient in hospital to prevent the spread of the disease. We are however reviewing the public health implications of making the disease notifiable.