HC Deb 24 February 1986 vol 92 cc408-9W
Mr. Mason

asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement setting out all the steps being taken by Her Majesty's Government to seek to halt the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, to establish causes and cures, and to educate the public and health professionals about the nature and hazards associated with the spread of the disease.

The Prime Minister

The Government have a substantial programme of action to deal with the urgent problem of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

1. To provide a general framework, information on a number of cases in the United Kingdom is collected by the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre; an expert advisory group was established at an early stage to provide expert medical advice; the Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 1985 were applied to make provision to remove a person to hospital and detain them there in exceptional circumstances; advisory committees have been set up in Scotland and Wales to monitor the spread of infection and advise on measures to reduce the rate of spread; and an interdepartmental ministerial steering group co-ordinates strategy on wider issues arising from the infection.

2. To improve the safety of blood and blood products, since 1983 leaflets have been issued by the national blood transfusion service to all blood donors, warning those in at risk groups not to donate blood. Blood products for haemophiliacs are now heat-treated. £138,000 was provided for the evaluation of kits which could test blood for the presence of antibodies to the virus which leads to AIDS (HTVL III). Since October 1985, when the suitability of the kits was confirmed, all blood donations are screened and those showing such antibodies are rejected. Over £2 million extra money has been provided in Great Britain for the testing of blood samples and the screening of blood donations. Health authorities have been asked to provide facilities for tests to be undertaken outside the blood transfusion services, and for counselling for people found to be infected with the virus.

3. To deal with AIDS on a comprehensive basis, health authorities in England have also been asked to draw up plans and to send these to the Department of Health and Social Security this summer. Extra money has been allocated to north-east, north-west and south-east Thames regional health authorities, which at present treat the majority of United Kingdom AIDS cases: £680,000 in 1985–86 and £2.5 million in 1986–87. More money was also allocated to the haemophilia reference centres to provide specialist counselling services: £90,000 in 1985–86 and £270,000 in 1986–87. The Government provided £150,000 for the provision of counselling training courses for health professionals.

4. General advice and guidance has been issued, some directly from Government—for example to health professionals and to local education authorities in relation to children at school, and some from organisations assisted by Government funds such as the Health Education Council, the Haemophilia Society, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Scottish AIDS Monitor. The Government will launch in the spring a major campaign to inform the general public about the nature of the disease and how it is spread, and have set aside £2.5 million for this purpose.

5. In research, scientists around the world are searching for a vaccine and a cure. Research in the United Kingdom on AIDS is co-ordinated by the Government funded Medical Research Council. Projects are being funded at a cost of £431,000 in total. The health Departments are contributing up to £300,000 per annum for epidemiological research on AIDS and for a new co-ordinating centre being set up by the MRC; the additional costs of this work will be met from the MRC's grant-in-aid. £125,000 has been provided for research co-ordinated by the chief scientist's office in Scotland.

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