Current Affairs

Prime Minister backs HIV fight

Marc Shoffman December 1, 2006
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Gay men are amongst groups who get the least help because of the stigma surrounding HIV, the Prime Minister said today.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Tony Blair vowed to keep up the fight against HIV and AIDS.

His remarks come on World AIDS Day, 25-years after the first diagnoses of the virus.

Mr Blair wrote that combating AIDS in Africa will also help the epidemic in the UK, “The emphasis we gave to Africa at the Gleneagles summit led to the historic commitment to provide universal access to Aids treatment and care by 2010.

“That would not have been possible without the support of millions of you through campaigns such as Make Poverty History.”

But he warned there is still more to do.

“It is not just lack of money or condoms or anti-viral drugs which need to be tackled. So, too, does the stigma and prejudice attached to Aids. Stigma prevents women in those societies where sexual violence is all too common from seeking help or even reporting their attacks.

“It means, too, in many societies that those with the most need – drug addicts, sex workers or gay men – get the least help.

“The result is that the infection spreads further and faster.

“We are also keen to help give women more choice and control over their own lives. It’s this lack of control which has meant that women make up two-thirds of all those with HIV in Africa.

“Tackling these problems is not just good for Africa. It will also help us combat HIV and Aids at home.”

Last week, a Health Protection Agency report revealed that three in every hundred gay men who attended an STI clinic in the last year had acquired HIV, HIV expert at the Agency, Dr Valerie Delpech, said: “The high level of new HIV cases being diagnosed continued in 2005 with 7450 cases recorded, including almost 2400 new cases in gay men.”

Mr Blair wrote, “There are also, worryingly, signs that young people here are increasingly ignoring the dangers of HIV and, of course, other sexually transmitted diseases.

“So just as we must step up the international efforts to combat Aids, there is no room for complacency at home.

“Which is why World Aids Day today is still important.”

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