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Tom Brake: Can the Minister spell out what raising HIV/AIDS at the Commonwealth conference means? Are the Government going there with a fundraising target in mind? What are the Government going to raise specifically, and what are they hoping to get out of that meeting?

Mr. Thomas: The intention of raising HIV/AIDS at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is to continue to encourage political leadership from the other leaders there, to encourage the process of donor co-ordination—to which I will refer in specific terms shortly—and to continue to ensure that there is debate and dialogue as to what individual leaders believe is missing or lacking in their countries.

As the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the World Health Organisation today launched its 3x5 strategy. We in the UK have welcomed the initiative to get some 3 million people on treatment by 2005. We recognise that the international community needs to take advantage of the opportunities offered by recent reductions in drug prices to make those treatments accessible to the poor. We certainly cannot stand by and witness the sheer inequality of four Africans dying of AIDS every minute while in richer countries anti-retroviral drugs make it possible for people not only to survive but to go back to work and lead productive lives.

As the hon. Gentleman suggested, only 300,000 people are currently on treatment in developing countries and only 1 per cent. of Africans with HIV/AIDS who require treatment receive it. The WHO's target is an ambitious scaling up of current levels. We must ensure that the implementation of the scheme is equitable and that poor communities, and especially women, may access treatment.

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As the hon. Gentleman said, we announced in a written statement earlier today the publication of a call for action on HIV/AIDS. The challenge of HIV/AIDS is especially acute in Africa, where AIDS is the biggest killer. However, as he said, we must not allow the spotlight to move away from the need for an effective response in parts of Asia and eastern Europe, where the pace of the increase of the disease is even higher than in sub-Saharan Africa.

Arresting the epidemic is an achievable goal, as is illustrated by the examples of Brazil, Uganda and Senegal. We know what needs to be done. Stronger political direction is needed and better funding and donor co-ordination is important. The taskforce for five African countries that was set up during President Bush's visit was designed to try to improve donor co-ordination and to share the analysis of problems in countries with Governments. It was also designed to ensure that bureaucracy and the need to fill in forms to access resources does not prevent proper work by country Governments.

Alongside better donor co-ordination, better funding and stronger political direction, we need better HIV/AIDS programmes in countries and, crucially, continuing momentum. I am delighted that there is gathering international momentum that has led to a proliferation of activity and greater funding. However, money and energies are not being used as well as they could be, which is why there is a focus on donor co-ordination. The hon. Gentleman rightly challenged us in the UK to play our part in eliminating some of those difficulties.

The essentials of a strategy can be crystallised by the need for one HIV/AIDS strategy, one HIV/AIDS commission and one way of measuring and reporting progress. We want individual countries and the international community to sign up to that because it will help to ensure that there is not double counting, which the hon. Gentleman was rightly worried about, and that effective donor co-ordination is in place. Such co-ordination is important if we are to meet our targets.

We are calling on the international community today to get on track to meet the millennium development goal of slowing the progress of HIV/AIDS by 2015. We want it to meet the UN target of cutting infections among young people by a quarter and, crucially, the WHO's target of getting 3 million people worldwide on treatment by 2005. We want to ensure that women and poor people are reached. We will require all our efforts throughout the international community to be intensified over the coming months and years. We must do more for people who already have AIDS, which will require us to address increasing access to treatment. I accept that prevention must remain a fundamental part of our strategy. We have focused on prevention up to now, so we will need to rebalance our programmes. The UK is committed to getting £1 billion into Africa by 2005–06 and to ensuring that HIV/AIDS is a priority for the additional £320 million that that will generate for Africa.

Tom Brake: The Minister mentioned a figure of £1 billion for Africa. May I bring him back to the subject of conflict? One could examine the revenue that the UK derives from arms sales in Africa, which I suspect dwarfs the £1 billion in aid that will be contributed. What

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discussions will his Department hold with other UK Government Departments about conflict and trying to ensure that the wealth of many African states will not be eaten up by funding an arms race when their money could be spent on resolving the health crisis?

Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman may already have had the chance to digest the call for action, and he will recognise that it is the beginning of a process of consultation not only across Government but with NGOs. As part of that, we will obviously be discussing with other Departments all the issues that have an impact on HIV/AIDS, and I am sure that conflict will be part of those discussions.

We know that drug prices are falling. We know that international political interest and commitment are growing and that new money has been committed. We

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stand ready in the UK to help to achieve the World Health Organisation's ambitious goal to get 3 million people on treatment. The call for action that we published today is the first step in an intensification of effort by the UK Government to tackle the epidemic. We have made it clear that we will make HIV/AIDS, together with Africa, a centrepiece of our presidencies of the G8 and the European Union in 2005. As I indicated, next year we will publish a new Government strategy on HIV/AIDS.

I hope that there will be other opportunities to discuss our response to HIV/AIDS, and again I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and allowing us to have this discussion.

Question put and agreed to.

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