Stuart yesterday spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Reflecting on his own experiences of visiting countries affected by these epidemics, Stuart emphasised the excellent work that the Global Fund has been able to provide:
"It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Dorries. I represent a Leeds constituency and we have suffered a lot with the recent floods. I have had a number of letters and emails from people suggesting that the easy solution would be to cut the funding for international development and to put that money into flood prevention instead, but frankly that is a short-term solution that would not help. I want to see all countries succeeding, and to achieve that, they need healthy populations that can then drive healthy economies. That requires long-term thinking and investment.
"While I have been a Member of Parliament, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of countries, and like my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) I declare an interest, in that I also went to Zambia in August. The trip was arranged for us to see how the country is addressing serious health challenges, such as TB and HIV. Over the past decade, Zambia has shown strong growth and during the visit we learned that the Government contribution to the health sector has doubled in the past five years, but that the health sector is dependent on other sources of funding, which account for something like 30% to 40% of health spending in that country.
"Zambia has a serious AIDS epidemic. Malaria is the leading cause of illness and death. The country has a serious problem with TB, with the risk of co-infection with HIV. Zambia is working hard to tackle those things, offering support and education and raising awareness among those suffering with those illnesses. In 2014, some 64,000 Zambians developed TB, which is a rate of 406 per 100,000. In this country, the rate is 12 per 100,000. That gives us an idea of the scale of the problem they are facing, but they are making great progress.
"Two visits particularly stuck in my mind. One was with a young health adviser in a village. His name was Elias. He dressed up smartly for us: he was wearing a waistcoat and tie while we all frankly looked like scruffs. He was educating villagers on the basic standards of living, so that they were reducing the risks of infection. The other most notable visit was to the St Luke’s mission hospital in Chongwe district. It receives funding from the Global Fund and is set in a very rural location. We were told that a man had walked for two days with his son to get to the hospital, but sadly got there too late. That shows how far these people have to travel to get the treatments they need. There we met patients who were suffering with TB and HIV, and they were becoming advocates in their communities to address the need for people to get treatment and, more importantly, testing. That is just one example of how much the Global Fund has done.
"In Zambia, the Global Fund has diagnosed and treated more than 81,000 TB cases, provided 14 million bed nets and given antiretroviral treatment to some 670,000 people. We should be very proud of what the Global Fund has achieved. It is critical in ensuring that healthcare is available to everyone who needs it. It says that the £13 billion it is looking for could generate another £41 billion in additional domestic investments. We have a proud record in supporting international aid, and I hope that when these diseases are eventually eradicated, we as a country can look back and say that we helped to achieve that."
To find out more information on The Global Fund, please visit: http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/