Westminster Hall Debate on Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria January 2016

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the Global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

The debate was chosen by the Backbench Business Committee after a submission by the chairs of three all-party parliamentary groups. I have the privilege to co-chair the APPG on tuberculosis; and my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), who chairs the APPG on HIV and AIDS, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who chairs the APPG on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, are here today because we are concerned to ensure that there is a continuing fight against three diseases that between them have accounted for, and continue to account for, millions of deaths every single year.

I would like to start by talking about the continuing need to fight these diseases, focusing particularly on tuberculosis, because that is the disease in which I have a particular interest. It continues to kill 1.5 million people every year in spite of the fact that the millennium development goal to halt and reverse the spread of the disease, as well as of HIV and malaria, by 2015, was met, with the prevalence of tuberculosis having halved.

Tuberculosis continues to kill a very large number of people every year. Indeed, the latest figures published by the World Health Organisation indicate that it is now the world’s deadliest disease, surpassing the mortality caused by HIV, although there is a significant issue of co-infection in relation to HIV/AIDS. Some 400,000 people a year die of tuberculosis related to AIDS. Despite the huge progress that has been made on AIDS—progress, however, that did not meet the millennium development goal—the disease continues to kill 1.2 million people a year, and despite the great progress on malaria, it continues to kill 600,000 people a year.

The first point to make is that despite the global effort to counter these dreadful diseases, they remain very significant killers, and continuing action will be needed if they are to be eliminated. It was a fine thing that the world came together in September to agree the new sustainable development goals to replace the millennium development goals, and that objective 3.3 of those goals is to end the three diseases by 2030—in just 15 years’ time. However, the current trajectory of tuberculosis suggests that we will not end the disease in 15 years’ time. We will end it in 200 years’ time, which means that there will continue to be a large number of deaths every year, and indeed an ongoing cost, unless we take firmer action now to beat the disease.

The second reason why it is important to tackle the diseases in question, quite apart from the humanitarian cost, the loss of life and the suffering caused, is that their prevalence has an impact on economic growth. ?If we want to see the economic development of countries—the continuing development of middle-income countries and the acceleration of development in lower-income countries—it is essential to ensure that there is a healthy population, and it is a condition of economic growth that the population can work and has access to healthcare. These diseases place a burden on the population that impedes economic growth. The circle that needs to be squared is how we support countries in the development of their health systems to produce a healthy population that, in turn, helps to generate economic growth.

The third reason why it is important to tackle these diseases is on the grounds of what one might describe as broader security. For instance, we see the growing risk of drug resistance in the case of tuberculosis, which is a transmissible disease that is easily carried and spread—a disease that knows no borders. The growing risk of drug resistance is linked to the old-fashioned regimes used to treat tuberculosis and to the fact that there has not been a sufficient focus on drug development since the disease resurged. That poses a risk not just to the countries involved but to countries around the world.

The UK Government have taken particular interest in drug resistance. The Prime Minister has led a focus on it through the antimicrobial resistance review, which is chaired by Lord O’Neill. The threat of drug resistance poses a huge risk to the global economy, amounting to billions of pounds of potential cost. By 2050, about a quarter of that cost might be incurred due to drug-resistant tuberculosis if we do not take action.

On all three grounds—humanitarian, economic growth and security—there is an argument for continuing action to tackle these terrible diseases. The question, then, is what the right mechanism to do so is. More than a decade ago, the world came together in the belief that it was important to set up a new means of fighting them. What was then described as a “massive effort” was launched under the auspices of the United Nations, and it became the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In the 10 years that followed the launch of the Global Fund in 2002, the world’s economies have committed more than $22 billion to the fund. In turn, it has developed 1,000 programmes in more than 150 countries to tackle these diseases. The Global Fund now estimates that since its inception, it has saved 17 million lives and is on course to have saved some 22 million lives by the end of the year. That is more than 2 million lives saved annually as a consequence of the effort that was put in place in 2002 under the Global Fund. It has put more than 8 million people on antiretroviral treatment for HIV and treated more than 13 million people for tuberculosis and more than half a billion people for malaria—a quite staggering effort. As a consequence, it has contributed to a decline of a third in the deaths from these three diseases in the countries where it operates.

The importance of the fund to beating these diseases is illustrated particularly in the case of tuberculosis. The Global Fund provides three quarters of the funds that are committed to beating TB globally. In the absence of the Global Fund and its continuing ability to raise resources to beat TB, how would we continue to ensure that resources were deployed to beat this terrible disease, particularly given the ambition in the sustainable development goals to eliminate it in just 15 years??

Read the full debate on Hansard.