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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 14:50 GMT
Aids: A threat to African security?
Soldiers in DR Congo
Soldiers spend a lot of time away from their wives

The purpose of an army is to defend a nation's borders.

But just how feasible is this when HIV infection rates among military personnel in Africa are reported, in the worst cases, to be as high as 80%?

In Kenya, a senior member of the army told reporters that at least six to 10 soldiers were dying each week as a result of HIV/Aids.

Research carried out in Southern Africa shows that Aids is the leading cause of death in both the military and police forces in several countries in the region.

Moreover, since 1980, it has been reported that more UN peacekeepers have died of Aids than have been killed in military action.

With statistics like this, the BBC Africa Live programme asks, is Aids Africa's greatest threat to security?

What should be done to stop the military from spreading Aids?

Join the BBC's Africa Live programme Thursday 20 November at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form on the right to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Your comments

The fastest way HIV/Aids is spread in West Africa is through soldiers on peace-keeping duties. The military guys are paid in dollars and so are able to win any woman of their choice. Sierra Leone is a case in point here - these khaki-boys were almost becoming a social menace to us. They wooed married women, school girls, you name it. Thank God they are leaving.
Sama S. Mondeh, Winnipeg-Canada

Without a doubt, Aids is a threat to African security and world security. The devastation that AIDS has caused in Africa leaves a generation of orphans, declining economic productivity and the gravest health crisis in history.
Jane Li, USA

Yes, Aids is a big threat to security in Africa and the world as a whole. What, however, can be done in peaceful African countries is simple. Engage the soldiers in productive work like insfrastructure development instead of lazing around in the barracks. In Kenya, for instance, around every barracks there is a slum mainly populated by single women and this could give an insight into how a number of soldiers use their time. What do you expect from an idle mind?. The answer is disaster.
Jacob Agola, U.S.A.

Soldiers in Africa are exposed to an environment which places them in a position of high risk of HIV/Aids. Priority should be given to sex education and awareness programmes which facilitate safe sex.
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopian/South Africa

How can the threat to African security be HIV/Aids? It's soldiers. Period. Sick ugly men in uniform who don't give a shout about Africans but those who arm them within and without. The army is a reflection of all that has gone wrong with Africa. And the poor Africans have to bear the cost personal rule and the cost of civil conflict. In countries like Uganda the army deliberately sowed the HIV virus on those on those who dared oppose them - using it as a biological weapon. And the powers that arm the military autocracy say nothing about it. Without the so-called military HIV wouldn't have spread this far. Fight the army more rigorously than the virus.
Franklin Okot, Canada

I agree that Aids is Africa's greatest threat to security alongside poverty and bad governance because as a matter of fact the peace keepers are not helping matters. I've heard of a lot of them who died of Aids. Though they could be ignorant, awareness campaigns and education is necessary. The simple answer is EMBRACE GOD and it make you faithful to your wives and most of all to God.
Lydia Stephen, UK

Lack of formal education regarding sex in Africa has contributed to a high rate of Aids infection.Military personnel in Africa are not being trained on sexual protection. They have a harder time fighting Aids than they have for other military duties. At least they have the machine guns to shoot the enemy, but they don't have the equipment to protect themselves from Aids. These soldliers are away for months from their families and you cannot blame them other than blaming the governments that provide insufficient services to these men and women in uniform.
Jimmy Morchinkegem, Sudanese in US

Aids needs a broad and comprehensive approach. You cannot single out groups to target and be effective. The answer lies in broad mass education, abstinence or safe sex, and access to contraceptives and life sustaining drugs.

Yes, Aids not only threatens to obliterate many of Africa's standing armies, but it also could be producing the next generation of Islamic militants. Who will care for the hundreds of thousands of Aids orphans. The countries of Africa don't have the resources to accomplish this daunting task. My concern is Islamic charities filling this parental and social void and moulding these children into the next generation of hardline militants.
Capt John Davidson, USMC, USA

Aids is indeed a war like no other. It is a threat to security and to sustainable development. In my view, HIV/Aids should be approached with the same furious onslaught that countries at war approach their enemies. .
Diana Opar, Kenya

Aids is a threat because African armies are more labour intensive. The solution is to reduce the armies' leisure time, especially in peaceful times, and to retain the "armies-in-camps" discipline.
Njoki Tibenda, Tanzania

Africa will grow fast and be a peaceful place without armed men and women.
Endegena, Ethiopia

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