Stepping up the fight to end AIDS, TB and Malaria

The APPG on HIV and AIDS is delighted by Saturday’s announcement from the Government that they will be giving £1.4 bn to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and TB at this September’s replenishment conference.

Following our joint reception last week with the APPGs on TB and Malaria where Michael Sheen and Charlie Webster spoke passionately about the importance of UK aid to the Global Fund, the Secretary of State wrote to the Chairs of the three APPGs to announce this important decision.

The reception was a celebration of the Global Fund’s amazing success. In 2000 just 2 million people living with HIV were on treatment, today 22 million people are. Other speakers included the three APPG chairs, Stephen Doughty MP, Jeremy Lefroy MP and Nick Herbert MP, the Minister Andrew Murrison MP and Maurine Murenga - a Global Fund advocate who spoke about how the Fund has saved her life - Executive Director of the Global Fund, Peter Sands and shadow international development Minister Dan Norris.

Andrew Murrison, the Minister for International Development highlighted that what characterised the event was the personal nature of all of the speeches. Everyone’s lives have been touched in different ways by these 3 diseases and all of those present at the event were passionate advocates for the excellent work of the Global Fund. They also highlighted that we need to step up the fight in order to finally end these diseases of inequality and ensure that our progress to date does no start going in reverse. Stephen Doughty MP said:

“We cannot ignore the fact that there are over 1000 new infections a day amongst women of reproductive age and that AIDS is still the biggest killer of that particular group. HIV is an illness that disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable people in society with 50% of new infections amongst the most marginalised groups – men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs. 

 In our latest report “No One Left Behind” we called on the UK Government and Global Fund to increase their support of these groups in the HIV response. HIV should not be a death sentence for anyone and in countries where marginalised groups are prevented from accessing treatment and support, it is vital that the Global Fund can step in and bridge that gap.”

On Monday this week, Chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS Stephen Doughty MP, once again raised the importance of UK aid in a debate in the House of Commons where he commended the UK Government’s decision to pledge £1.4bn to the Global Fund.

The UK’s early and ambitious pledge is a strong signal to other donor countries and we hope to see them make equally ambitious announcements at the upcoming conference.

Left to right: Jeremy Lefroy MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Minister for International Development Andrew Murrison MP, Michael Sheen, Charlie Webster, Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP, Peter Sands, Dan Norris MP, Maurine Murenga

Left to right: Jeremy Lefroy MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Minister for International Development Andrew Murrison MP, Michael Sheen, Charlie Webster, Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP, Peter Sands, Dan Norris MP, Maurine Murenga

APPG Chair Stephen Doughty MP calls on the UK Government to reform the drug industry

Stephen Doughty MP

In a year when the British government should be working to secure progress towards universal health coverage, they are failing to champion access to life-saving medicines globally.

The Italian government has put forward a draft resolution to improve the transparency of markets for drugs, vaccines and other health-related technologies, to be discussed at the World Health Assembly in 10 days’ time.

The resolution sets out an ambitious but practical plan to make clinical trial data and drug pricing, research and development investment – including public contributions – and progressively more transparent. The aim is to improve access to information and therefore strengthen the state’s position when negotiating with industry on what they pay for medicines.

Pharmaceutical companies currently have the upper hand when negotiating drug pricing, which can lead to market failures such as low- and middle-income countries paying more than high-income countries for certain medicines. For example, north African countries were paying more for Pfizer’s PCV13 pneumonia vaccine than France.

Globally,100 million people a year are being pushed into poverty because of out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. While gains have been made in reducing the price of some treatments, new therapies for HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C, diabetes and cancer remain prohibitively expensive.

In Access Denied, a report by the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and Aids, we highlighted the market failures that have led to a lack of investment in paediatric HIV medicines. Children living with HIV in the poorest parts of the world should be a clear priority, but the nature of the research and development system discourages investment. It is this kind of market failure that the World Health Organization (WHO) is attempting to rectify with the draft resolution.

The lowest price for bedaquiline, a new tuberculosis medicine, is $400 (£308) for a six-month course. But the drug must be taken as part of a £928 regimen that is unaffordable for many low- and middle-income countries. Because of its high price, only 20% of people in need of bedaquiline have received access to it – even though the drug was financed by philanthropic and public funding sources, including from the UK.

Similarly, Herceptin – a breast cancer treatment largely funded by the British taxpayer, according to a report by StopAids and Global Justice Now – costs £19,418 in Peru, even though the country’s GDP per capita sits at £5,021.

The draft resolution has 10 co-sponsors so far. However, some northern European countries, including the UK, are reportedly attempting to water it down.

Last month, 35 cross-party MPs joined me in calling on the British government to support this WHO resolution. It is disappointing that the UK is seemingly more inclined to listen to pharmaceutical lobby groups rather than patients, civil society organisations and elected MPs. I have written to Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, asking for an urgent review of the UK’s position on the resolution.

There is a second consultation on the resolution taking place for member states at the WHO on Friday. The UK government should positively engage and support this resolution as a practical way to tackle high drug prices, creating a more just and equitable research and development system for all.

• Stephen Doughty MP is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and Aids. He has been leading parliamentary actions on the resolution

APPG on HIV & AIDS writes to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about access to HIV medicines in the event of a "no deal" Brexit

Earlier this year the APPG on HIV & AIDS wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about access to HIV medicines in the event of a “no deal” Brexit amid concerns that a new government regulation - the serious shortage protocols - would allow pharmacists to change prescriptions in the event of medicine shortages.

Civil society organisations contacted the APPG about their concerns regarding the lack of consultation on the impact of these protocols on people living with HIV and highlighted that only an HIV consultant is qualified to alter a patient’s HIV medication safely.

We raised these concerns and asked for a full outline of the Government’s strategy for ensuring access to HIV medicines after Brexit. You can see the Government’s full response below.

The APPG on HIV and AIDS and APPG on Mental Health Call for Written Evidence on HIV and Mental Health

The APPG on HIV and AIDS and APPG on Mental Health are putting out a call for written evidence as part of an inquiry into HIV and Mental Health in England.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health and Public Health England’s most recent (2018) report on the HIV epidemic in the UK, people living with HIV are twice as likely to have anxiety and depression compared to those who are not living with HIV. Some forms of stress can contribute to mental health challenges for people living with HIV, including:

  • Having trouble getting the services you need

  • Experiencing a loss of social support, resulting in isolation

  • Experiencing a loss of employment or worries about whether you will be able to perform your work as you did before

  • Making decisions about whether and how to tell others about your status

  • Managing your HIV medicines

  • Going through changes in your physical appearance or abilities due to HIV/AIDS

  • Dealing with loss, including the loss of relationships or even death

  • Facing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS

Submissions to the inquiry should be sent to Susie Pelly by email at pellys@parliament.uk by 5pm on 5th April 2019. If you have any questions about the terms of reference please contact the Policy Advisor to the APPG on HIV and AIDS Susie Pelly at the same email address as above. Submissions are welcome from all people and organisations with an interest in HIV and mental health. Please clearly outline the organisation if applicable you work for and your contact details.

To read the full terms of reference for the inquiry including questions to guide your submission please click on link below.

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Minister Burt responds to the APPG on HIV and AIDS report "No One Left Behind"

In November Minister Burt sent a written response to the APPG on HIV and AIDS in response to our report “No One Left Behind: towards a sustainable HIV response for key populations and women and girls”, outlining DFID’s plans to address some of the concerns raised by the report.

We are pleased that DFID is establishing “working principles on how we transition our work in-country”. We will be working with DFID to ensure these working principles adequately address the needs of People Living with HIV.

The Minister’s response also highlights that in many countries, political will is the biggest barrier to access to services for People Living with HIV, rather than external financing. The APPG will continue to work with DFID and the FCO to ensure these political barriers are tackled effectively.

We are delighted that the Government has increased their contribution to the Robert Carr Network Civil Society Networks Fund - one of the key asks in our report and welcome the MInister’s response to our inquiry. To read the letter in full please click on the link.

HIV community gathers in Parliament to tackle late diagnosis of HIV

On 10th October the APPG HIV/AIDS co-hosted the Halve it report launch “A Roadmap for eliminating late diagnosis of HIV in England” as a farewell to the Halve it Campaign and call to action to ensure the hard earned gains made over the past eight years are not lost.

Stephen Doughty MP chaired the event highlighting some of the important gains of the Halve It campaign since its inception in 2010. Halve It has overseen a massive reduction in undiagnosed HIV. The challenge now is to tackle late diagnosis. Dr Laura Waters - an HIV specialist from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital talked through the findings of the report which you can read about in this briefing.

Sara then followed with her personal experience of receiving a late HIV diagnosis in her 50s. Sara’s story was particularly powerful given it was the first time she had spoken about her diagnosis in public. She described the huge health implications of her late diagnosis and the difficulties in disclosing to friends. One of the main positives which she has drawn from her experience is that her GP is now more aware of the signs of HIV within her age group and is testing more frequently. As Sara said - “I just didn’t fit the demographic”.

Sara’s moving speech was followed by a call for Action from Deborah Gold, the Executive Director at the National AIDS Trust. The event was a great opportunity for celebrating Halve It’s successes and an important reminder that there is still more work to be done.

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The APPG in Amsterdam and other news….

Stephen Doughty MP speaking on a panel at the International AIDS Conference about the APPG’s latest report  No One Left Behind

Stephen Doughty MP speaking on a panel at the International AIDS Conference about the APPG’s latest report No One Left Behind

In the past few months the APPG has been busy launching our latest report “No One Left Behind”, promoting our report at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam and meeting with various organisations in Parliament. To find out more read on…

Report launch

Amidst World Cup mania In July we launched our latest report “No One Left Behind: towards a sustainable HIV response for key populations and women and girls” in Parliament. The launch, which was hosted alongside STOPAIDS and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance was a celebration of over a year’s work with speakers from DFID, Chair of the Key Populations Consortium in Kenya, Grace Kamau and Maria Phelan from the Robert Carr Civil Society Networks Fund. You can find a copy of our report on our website.

Amsterdam

A week later, Chair of the APPG Stephen Doughty MP and Vice Chair, Baroness Barker attended the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam and spoke at numerous events highlighting the latest findings from our report. We were delighted to hear the UK Government’s announcement that it would increase funding to the Robert Carr Civil Society Networks Fund by 20% - one of the key policy asks in our report. 

other meetings

The APPG was also delighted to host CHIVA’s young advocates on 10th July in Parliament. The meeting was a chance for young people to speak face to face with Parliamentarians about their experience of living with HIV in the UK. We are working with CHIVA to follow up on some of the key policy concerns that were raised in this meeting.

coming up

We have a number of events coming up in the next few months. We are hosting a lunch time briefing for Parliamentarians on the future of public health spending with Terrence Higgins Trust and the APPG on Sexual and Reproductive Health. We are also working towards our World AIDS Day parliamentary reception with STOPAIDS and International HIV/AIDS Alliance. More details soon to follow. 

 We are delighted to co-host the Halve report launch on 10th October to celebrate the culmination of Halve It’s work and their latest findings in: “A road map for eliminating late diagnosis of HIV in England.”