David Cameron backs National HIV Testing Week at PMQs

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Prime Minister David Cameron has given his backing to National HIV Testing Week.

Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for HIV and AIDS, raised the matter at today’s PMQs.

Mr Kirby said: “Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister won’t be surprised that I will be marking World AIDS Day on Monday in Brighton, but will he join with me in encouraging people this week, National HIV Testing Week, to come forward and have regular tests?”

The Prime Minister replied: “I think my Honourable Friend is absolutely right, obviously this government is pioneering the offer of free tests, it’s very important and we need to tackle HIV and AIDS not just here in our country but around the world and that’s also why we put so much money into anti-retroviral drugs.”

It was noted in the Commons that MPs from all sides, including the Prime Minister, Chancellor George Osbourne and Labour leader Ed Miliband, were wearing red ribbons in order to signify Monday’s World AIDS Day.

Pamela Nash, the Labour MP for Airdrie and Shotts and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, urged for David Cameron to do more to encourage international investment on HIV treatment.

She said: “I really appreciate what the Prime Minister said earlier about the investment from the government in anti-retrovirals and I commend them for the investment in the Global Fund, but I would ask the House to also remember today that 76% of children living with HIV in the world do not receive medication largely because there is no research and development at the centre to make those medications available.

“We have seen at our peril that the lack of investment in neglected diseases such as Ebola risks the health of everyone in the world. Can I ask the Prime Minister what he will do to encourage investment in neglected diseases?”

The Prime Minister replied: “First of all I very much agree with what she said about the Global Fund, I think it’s been an excellent way of getting countries around the world to make their contributions and Britain has been no slouch in doing that, we have been a major funder of the Global Fund.

“In terms of how we tackle diseases and pandemics and problems in our world, I do think we have to have a serious look at the World Health Organisation. It is the body, under the ambit of the UN, that ought to be able to respond and respond more rapidly, but it is an organisation in badly need of reform. As I have said in this House before, I think we need to look at how we pull resources so we can act more quickly, but part of that should also be reforming particularly the regional aspects of the WHO, which is not fit for purpose.”

Figures released last week from Public Health England showed 3,250 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV last year – the highest ever figure.

One in eight gay and bisexual men in London is HIV positive.

PHE said the figures underline the need to further increase both the numbers and frequency of HIV tests, which is critical to tackling the ongoing high levels of HIV transmission.

National HIV Testing Week is taking place from 22-30 November, followed by World AIDS Day on 1 December.