Yesterday, on World AIDS Day, Conservative MPs led the way in highlighting the issues of HIV and AIDS in the House of Commons. David Cameron wore a red ribbon at Prime Minister’s Questions, but it was Iain Stewart, openly-gay MP for Milton Keynes South who kicked off by questioning the Scotland Secretary on HIV. The Minister said in response that the government would look carefully at the results of Scottish pilot projects to extend HIV testing in primary care hospitals and community centres, with a view to extending it across the whole of the UK.
Later in the day attention turned to Westminster Hall, where a two hour debate on HIV took place. Conservative MP, Edward Leigh was in the Chair while Vice-Chair of the all-party group on HIV and AIDS, Pauline Latham, highlighted the fact that recently-divorced people who had previously been in long-term monogamous relationships were now going out into the single world and often without the knowledge of the prevalence of HIV in the heterosexual community.
Mike Weatherley was keen to point out that in his constituency of Hove, together with Brighton there is one of the highest rates of HIV in the UK. Mr Weatherley stated that 26% of people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed and that “tackling this must be a priority”.
Openly-gay Stuart Andrew, who represents the Pudsey constituency in Yorkshire, focused on the challenges facing the new government. He said “there is no one silver bullet when it comes to preventing HIV transmission, but we can, through a range of interventions, start to reverse this epidemic. Like the Government of the 1980s, the coalition faces a considerable challenge in tackling HIV. Unlike that Government, however, the coalition can draw on 25 years of experience in dealing with the epidemic and in understanding what works and what does not.”
Matthew Sephton, who chairs the Conservative-affiliated gay group, LGBTory, commented:
“It is great to see action from so many Conservative MPs. Days such as World AIDS Day give us the opportunity to pause and reflect on issues as important as HIV and AIDS. It is clear that many Conservative MPs also recognise the importance of doing just that, and with their continued support we can ensure that HIV is tackled head-on, both in the UK and around the world.”