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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 03:12 GMT 04:12 UK
'Test UN troops for HIV'
un
UN troops in high risk areas are supplied with condoms
The United States has called for the voluntary HIV testing of all UN peacekeepers to help combat Aids.

In what is believed to be the first UN Security Council resolution to deal with a health issue, the US also calls for better education among UN troops about Aids prevention.

vaccine
Trials of a new vaccine begin in August
The move came as tests for a new vaccine got the go-ahead.

The UN has already approved funding for a condom a day to be distributed to every soldier sent to high-risk countries, such as Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aids Special Report
Washington's UN ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, called the draft resolution "a breakthrough for the UN, for the Security Council".

"I hope it will also be another step forward in this relentless war that must be waged on all fronts against the spread of HIV-Aids," he said.

Whilst there are plenty of anecdotal reports of UN troops frequenting brothels in areas ranging from the Balkans to Cambodia, there are few statistics about the rate of HIV infection amongst peacekeepers.

Aids
Fourth biggest killer worldwide
About 18.8 million people have died from Aids-related illnesses since 1983
2.8 million died of Aids-related diseases last year

Source: UN
In Cambodia, in the early 1990s, sexually transmitted diseases were widespread, particularly among European soldiers and prostitution became more prolific than ever.

The draft Security Council resolution, expected to be adopted shortly, calls for increased co-operation amongst national military organisations about Aids and the compilation of a database which will track troop contributors policies on Aids prevention.

Much of the practical health education called for in this resolution is already being organised by the UN peacekeeping department and other UN agencies.

Vaccine hope

About 18.8 million people have died from Aids-related illnesses since 1983, including 2.8 million last year, UN figures show.

Nearly twice that many, some 34.3 million people, are now infected with HIV, which can lead to Aids, and are expected to die over the next decade or so.

About 24.5 million or 70% of victims are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The highest number, 4.2 million, are in South Africa where trials of a new Aids vaccine will be announced at an international conference in Durban next week.

Scientists at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford will begin trials in August, starting with small groups of healthy adults in the UK and then in Kenya, and from there, will move to bigger trials on people who are already infected.

But even if this one is a success, it will not be available for another 10 years at least, and the cost of manufacturing it is expected to be at least 300m.

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The BBC's Karen Allen
"Campaigners say warnings must be repeated"
See also:

28 Jun 00 | Africa
06 Jul 00 | African Debates
28 Jun 00 | In Depth
16 Jun 00 | Health
01 May 00 | Americas
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