BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Jonathan Patterson
"Almost 35 million people are living with Aids"
 real 28k

Sandra Thurman, White House's Aids policy director
"Disease knows no borders"
 real 28k

The BBC's Nicholas Walton
"A massive loss of life from the disease could trigger ethnic wars and genocide"
 real 28k

Monday, 1 May, 2000, 03:06 GMT 04:06 UK
US: Aids is security threat
Aids patient
Aids has spread rapidly across Africa
The United States Government has formally designated the worldwide spread of Aids as a threat to its national security and ordered a major reassessment of efforts to combat the disease.

American intelligence reports say the long-term effects of Aids will be catastrophic for some countries, initially in sub-Saharan Africa and later in other regions, including South Asia and the former Soviet Union.

Aids Special Report
The reports warn that the disease could trigger ethnic wars and genocide and undermine democratic governments.

The National Security Council (NSC), which co-ordinates US foreign, domestic and military policy, has been asked to develop a strategy for combating the spread of Aids - the first time it has become involved in fighting an infectious disease.

But Congressman Trent Lott, leader of the Republican majority in the US Senate, said he did not believe Aids was a national security threat.

"I guess this is just the president trying to make an appeal to, you know, certain groups," Mr Lott said.

"I don't view that as a national security threat, not to our national security interests, no."

Millions die

Throughout the world, almost 35 million people are living with HIV or Aids.

Of about 13 million people who have so far died of the disease, 11 million have been from sub-Saharan Africa.

This global pandemic will make the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages pale in comparison, unless our response is .. commensurate with the magnitude of the problem

Aids policy director Sandra Thurman

According to NSC spokesman P J Crowley, Aids is "becoming more and more a part of the fabric of what constitutes a country's security."

The disease's widespread nature "can very easily overwhelm a government and start to undo the careful progress you've made in other areas," he added.

Mr Crowley said budget requests to combat Aids overseas had doubled to $254m, and a White House working group had been set up as part of a new push to deal with the administration's concerns.

The working group is to finish drafting its proposals in May.

White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said: "We hope that, if they are making it a more significant priority, we can bring to bear more of the sort of resources we need to fight back against the deadly scourge of that disease."

Demographic catastrophe

"This global pandemic will make the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages pale in comparison, unless our response is .. commensurate with the magnitude of the problem," said White House Aids policy director Sandra Thurman.

African child
Many children will die young - or be orphaned

Predictions suggest the hardest hit countries will face a demographic catastrophe within the next 20 years.

In sub-Saharan Africa, infant mortality is expected to double, and child mortality to triple.

US Government analysts say that a quarter of southern Africa's population is likely to die of Aids, and the epidemic could follow a similar course in South Asia and the former Soviet Union.

The effect of the disease on national security has already been discussed at international conferences.

The White House spokesman said President Clinton would raise the issue again later this month at a meeting with European Union leaders in Portugal and at a meeting of the Group of Eight leaders in July.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Americas Contents

Country profiles
See also:

20 Apr 00 | Africa
Drug data backs HIV-Aids link
04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
12 May 99 | Aids
Aids Africa's top killer
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Aids drugs factfile
08 Jul 99 | Aids
Aids worldwide
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories