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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 19:21 GMT
US boost for Aids fight

Aids patient Many families in Africa have been hit by Aids


United States Vice-President Al Gore has announced plans for a major financial contribution to the fight against Aids.


When a single disease threatens everything from economic strength to peacekeeping, we clearly face a security threat of the greatest magnitude
Al Gore

Mr Gore told a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council devoted to Africa that the US Government will ask Congress to approve an extra $100m to combat Aids.

He said the extra money would fund efforts to reduce the stigma of the disease and to care for children orphaned by Aids, and brings the total US funds pledged in the worldwide fight against Aids to $325m.

It is the first time the Security Council has discussed a health issue in more than 4,000 meetings.


Al Gore Al Gore: criticised by Aids campaigners

Mr Gore said that combating Aids should be part of a new security agenda for the world.

"We now know that the number of people who will die of Aids in the first decade of the 21st century will rival the number that died in all the wars in all the decades of the 20th century," he said.

He also announced $50m to help fund the purchase and distribution of life-saving vaccines in developing nations.


HIV/Aids statistics
33.6 million people infected worldwide
More than 50% of cases in Africa
Aids killed two million African in 1998
10 people infected every second

During his campaign for the US Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Al Gore has run into criticism from Aids campaigners who accused him of siding with multinational pharmaceutical firms against South Africa in a dispute over the high cost of anti-Aids drugs.

But Mr Gore assured the Security Council that in the future, Washington would ensure US trade policies do not hinder other countries' efforts to respond to the Aids crisis.

UN first

Of people infected by HIV, the virus which leads to Aids, it is estimated that more than 50% are in Africa.

The disease is normally dealt with by UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation or the UN Children's Fund, Unicef, while the security council deals with questions of international peace and security.

However, US representative to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, who is presiding over the council this month, is using the time to highlight African issues.

He argues that holding a security council 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.


Richard Holbrooke Mr Holbrooke has made this Africa month for the UN Security Council
Mr Holbrooke, who recently visited Africa, says many people there do not want to know whether they are HIV positive because of the stigma still associated with the disease.

The UN estimates that 13 million of the 16 million people who have died of Aids were from Africa.

Of the 30 countries with the highest level of prevalence of Aids, all but three are in Africa.

Burundi and Congo

In the past the UN Security Council has been accused of being too slow to react to Africa's needs, but the Aids debate marks the start of a month of high-profile discussions about 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.

Later in January the Security Council will devote a week to the uncertain peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The discussions are due to be attended by Congolese President Laurent Kabila and other key leaders from the region.

The council has already sent a small number of military liaison officers to the area, but 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:
04 Oct 99 |  Africa
Africa on the Aids frontline
01 Dec 99 |  Africa
Aids in Kenya: A social disease
15 Sep 99 |  Africa
Aids: World's 'worst undeclared war'
01 Dec 99 |  World
UN highlights Aids orphans
24 Nov 99 |  Africa
Mixed response to Africa's Aids epidemic
14 Sep 99 |  Aids
African countries list Aids priorities

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