GORE: Proclaims AIDS a Global Security Threat
"When 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected [with HIV] every minute; when 11 million children have already become orphans, and many must be raised by other children; when a single disease threatens everything from economic strength to peacekeeping -- we clearly face a security threat of the greatest magnitude," Vice President Al Gore told members of the United Nations Security Council he presided over yesterday (White House release, 1/10). Emphasizing that "AIDS is a global aggressor that must be defeated," Gore pledged that the Clinton administration would seek $150 million in additional funding from Congress in the FY 2001 budget to bring the total the United States spends on international AIDS efforts to $325 million, the Washington Post reports. Of the extra $150 million, $100 million will go to bolster AIDS education, prevention and treatment programs, including $10 million earmarked to assist in the care of the estimated 11 million children orphaned by AIDS and another $10 million for programs that fight discrimination against those with HIV. Another $10 million will help the U.S. military educate African armies about AIDS, as the "incidence of AIDS is rising among African soldiers and international peacekeepers on the continent." Gore said that $50 million of the $150 million total would be directed to fight other diseases, including hepatitis B and malaria. The additional funding requires congressional approval (Lynch, Washington Post, 1/11).
- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee foreign operations subcommittee, applauded Gore's announcement, saying, "AIDS is ravaging an entire generation in Africa, and Asia is not far behind. HIV/AIDS knows no national borders, and Americans are increasingly at risk. I am confident that the foreign relations subcommittee, which is the main source of funding for international health, will want to support this request" (Leahy release, 1/10).
- In a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) lent his support to the efforts of Holbrooke and Gore, writing that it "is difficult to imagine political or social progress in Africa without forcefully addressing the increasing toll ... HIV/AIDS is exacting on her people. I learned this first-hand during a recent trip to sub-Saharan Africa, where ... I had the opportunity to speak to heads of states and key government and private sector leaders. Everywhere we went we were struck by the severity of the HIV/AIDS problem, and we came away with the belief that we need to act aggressively -- now" (Gephardt letter, 1/10).
- "AIDS is not just a humanitarian problem," an editorial in the New York Times asserts, agreeing with Gore that it is a "security crisis." The editorial argues that increased funding "is surely welcome, but this figure is woefully inadequate when measured against the scale of the problem." However, the Times commends the meeting for addressing the stigma attached to AIDS, arguing that "may be where yesterday's Security Council debate makes its most lasting contribution." The editorial concludes, "By giving this crisis the prominent platform it deserves, the United States is finally providing the leadership needed to overcome what the vice president properly decried as 'the ignorance and indifference that lead to infection'" (New York Times, 1/11).