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Saturday, 8 January, 2000, 01:36 GMT
Aids becomes a security issue

Aids orphans Orphans whose parents have died of Aids are an increasing problem

By Mark Devenport in Geneva

United States Vice President Al Gore is to chair a debate at the UN Security Council on Monday on the scourge of Aids in Africa - the first time the council, which deals with questions of international peace and security, has debated a health issue.

If people have the virus and other people know, then they are dead men walking, or dead women walking
Richard Holbrooke, US ambassador to the UN
The US, which is presiding over the Council this month, says the debate will be one of a series of discussions devoted to Africa's problems.

International security

The threat posed by Aids is normally dealt with by other parts of the UN, principally agencies like the World Health Organisation or the UN Children's Fund.

But the US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, argues that this debate is justified because the epidemic poses a danger to the economic and political stability of many sub-Saharan African countries and therefore has a clear implication for international security.

More than 20 million Africans are believed to be infected with HIV.

No treatment

Ambassador Holbrooke, who recently visited Africa, says many people there do not want to find out whether they are HIV positive:

"If they have the virus and they know they have it, and other people know, then they are dead men walking, or dead women walking," Mr Holbrooke said.

"They will get no treatment, they will probably lose their job and they could get ostracised by their own family."

More US resources

Mr Gore is expected to announce more US resources for the battle against Aids.

In the past, the council has been accused of being slow to react to conflicts in Africa, but the Aids debate will mark the start of a series of high-profile discussions of the continent's problems.

The former South African president, Nelson Mandela, is expected to address the council in his capacity as a mediator in the conflict in Burundi.

Then, later in January, the council will devote a week to the uncertain peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The discussions are due to be attended by the DR's Congo's president, Laurent Kabila, and other key leaders in the region.

The council has already sent a small number of military liaison officers to the Great Lakes region, but it is reluctant to authorise what would have to be a large and expensive peacekeeping force until it is convinced there is a peace to keep.

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See also:
01 Dec 99 |  Africa
Aids in Kenya: A social disease
01 Dec 99 |  World
UN highlights Aids orphans
24 Nov 99 |  Africa
Mixed response to Africa's Aids epidemic
15 Sep 99 |  Africa
Aids: World's 'worst undeclared war'
14 Sep 99 |  Aids
African countries list Aids priorities

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