RESULTS UK was delighted to be joined by Kate Osamor MP on our delegation to Zambia this summer. Here, Kate reflects on why we should be incredibly proud of the impact of UK aid this World AIDS Day, and why it’s so important to keep pushing for solutions to a challenge that is still holding back so many countries around the world today.
Kate Osamor, Labour & Co-operative MP for Edmonton and PPS to Jeremy Corbyn, visited Zambia this summer with RESULTS UK (this blog was originally posted on www.lcid.org.uk in longer form)
“I was incredibly honoured to be elected to Parliament this May, and I’m determined to fight for the best deal for my constituents. As a Labour and Co-operative Party MP, I also firmly believe in solidarity with others fighting for a better life, whether it’s in this country or on the other side of the world. Visiting relatives in Nigeria taught me from a young age that people share the same aspirations, whether they’re struggling local entrepreneurs in London or in Lagos. I’m committed to pushing for the UK to be a force for good in people’s lives wherever they live.
This means knowing what’s happening on the ground – and if the 0.7 pence per £1 of national income spent by the UK on aid is working or not. So this summer, I joined MPs from across the political parties in visiting Zambia with RESULTS UK, to find out how UK aid money is being invested in fighting diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Diseases of poverty like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis present a huge challenge in Zambia. HIV affected 12% of all adults at its peak last decade, and it has only been through global initiatives such as the UK-supported Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, that this has now dropped. But such countries still face a huge HIV treatment bill, and will need additional ways of protecting their people in the long-term, such as vaccines and other tools that women especially can use. We met with Dr William Kilembe and his team of Zambian scientists working for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in their Lusaka laboratory. The science they’re working on is world-class, but it can’t continue without strong global support.
We’ve reached a point where diseases like HIV are no longer automatically a death sentence in places like Zambia, and now have the opportunity to push for the end of these epidemics. This is worth remembering when people tell you things ‘can’t be done’. Reflecting on the challenges I saw in Zambia, it seems important to remember what we’ve achieved in just the last fifteen years - 15 million people on HIV treatment, life expectancies increasing and helping to raise incomes and living standards. Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that UK aid and partnerships are something to be proud of – and I’d say it’s worth keeping up our work with people like Dr Kilembe, and committing to finishing the job.”
At the last election, the UK Government pledged to ‘lead a new global programmed of R&D for the world’s deadliest diseases’ and last week the Spending Review announced a new £1bn fund to support this work.
It is vital that the development of HIV prevention tools, such as a vaccine, is supported by this fund. We have a chance now, with HIV rates falling, to ensure we can successfully and sustainably end one of the world’s leading killer diseases –and the UK Government has the chance to lead the way.