Speech by Secretary of State for International Development to the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS at the House of Lords.
Marking World AIDS Day at a panel event hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS.
Brilliant…I feel like saying “Follow that”. Not that easy. But I’m really delighted to be here, to help support this event to highlight World AIDS Day. As many of the speakers have said - Winnie obviously gave her own, very personal views and I think you set out really clearly that it’s worth remembering all of the people who’ve lost their lives to AIDS over the years and why it’s so important that we work together to try and do what we can to continue.
I think there has been really huge progress over recent years in how we’ve responded to AIDS globally and we’ve already talked about money and I think this government has been prepared to invest in tackling AIDS. Perhaps I can take this opportunity to be absolutely clear that we are committed to this ‘zero’ approach. Zero new infections, zero discrimination (as we’ve already talked about) and zero deaths as well. That’s what we want to aim towards - with all of you - as a government.
I think we have seen some really dramatic, significant and, I think, substantial progress in a way that we haven’t seen in the past. We’ve seen that now: 8 million people are having access to treatment - which is a huge step forward. More countries investing more money in tackling AIDS themselves - in fact, I think there’s no more money being invested by countries, than is actually coming in to investments by global giving, which is a huge step forward, because it does mean that we’re moving towards a more sustainable response to tackling AIDS on a day-to-day business.
I think this concept of an ‘end to AIDS’, ‘getting to zero’ - completely right to have those as aspirations. They’re ones we share, but, we accept, as well, there’s still a huge amount left to be done. There are too many people getting infected: 2 ½ million people last year. Women disproportionately affected; in fact, I did an APPG event at lunchtime, because today’s the day that we commemorate the elimination of violence against women. We know that many people who get AIDS are women, and that’s as a result of sexual violence. There are still 7 million people who don’t get treatment and, of course as you mentioned David, for many LIC and MICs, I think this targeting of work to address HIV in key populations like sex workers, men who have sex with men and drug users as well is still very much funded by international sources.
I think if we’re really going to get a broad, holistic approach to tackling AIDS and AIDS treatment in countries, it’s got to be for everybody, not just for some people. So I completely agree that this human rights issue is a very, very important one and it’s something that I plan to have a very structured approach to, in terms of my engagement with human rights organisations as Secretary of State for DFID.
As we’ve seen AIDS develop and, if you like, the way that the epidemic and the dynamics of AIDS has changed, I think that also means that we’ve changed the way that we’ve been resourcing it. We’ve got to continue to adapt our strategy as challenges change. We very much try to take a strategic approach in DFID, and that’s meant working with countries as they’ve developed their own priorities to tackling AIDS. I think that we’ve been clear about what we want to do with the money that we’ve got in our bilateral programmes, but also through key thematic funds like the Global Fund is around making sure what we do is effective, making sure it’s delivered efficiently when we think we’ve worked out what we think the right strategy is, but also, the sense of equity: making sure that nobody who needs treatment is left out.
So maybe if I can just quickly set out (in my three minutes that I’ve got left now), how we approach it. It’s very evidence-based. David was talking about this evaluation of the community response to HIV, which is a piece of work that we’ve been investing in. It’’s very much given us a good fact-base from which to understand where the drivers of AIDS remain: alcohol abuse, still a lot of stigma, issues around violence against women. To my mind, we need to work harder on addressing some of those underlying root causes. My sense is that we’ve made a lot of strides, in terms of the medical challenges that we face - although there’s a lot more work to be done - but actually a lot of the unfinished business is around attitudes at the country level and not being prepared to accept discrimination.
The Global Fund itself has stepped up to the plate and looked at how it can improve its business model, so that it can get the most out of the money it gets. I think that’s extremely important. Some of the work that they’ve done working with people like the Clinton Health Access Initiative (of the Clinton Foundation): that has saved African governments something like half a billion pounds: a huge amount of money. I think the new way that the Global Fund is going to work - its new business model - should hopefully better align with how countries themselves are working on AIDS. It should mean that their money can go further.
What about DFID’s support and the UK government support for the Global Fund? Well, we obviously know about the replenishment coming up next year; we know about the second round of the multilateral aid review, and really, this is a fund that we have been a key supporter of, and we hope we can continue being a key supporter of.
I think I just really wanted to finish by saying that I think the human rights aspect of this is extremely important. DFID, in 2011, launched a position paper towards zero infections: it was all about scaling up treatments, very much a medical response, but also some issues around tackling stigma and discrimination. Over the past three years, we’ve put a billion pounds in to tackling AIDS as a government and we are clear that we want to continue our funding for this. I am determined that I will work with many of the groups that are represented in this room today, to try and come up with a refresher of that strategy that is a sensible one that reflects where we all think the key challenges are now, but particularly what I am interested in doing is understanding what DFID can uniquely do, and what we can uniquely add, that perhaps other institutions can’t. I think that if we can work together - although AIDS will no doubt remain one of our greatest medical challenges - I think that we can continue to, notwithstanding that, make some huge strides in not just treatment, not just prevention, but also tackling some of the attitudes that underlie it, which I think are so negative.