Is AIDS A Global Security Threat?

20 June 2006
De Capua interview on AIDS mp3 audio clip
De Capua interview on AIDS ra audio clip

A new study says HIV/AIDS is creating potential risks to regional, national and global security. The study was done by analysts at the Center on Global Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  They say the link between public health and national security has so far been missing.

Harley Feldbaum is one of the authors of the study. From London, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that it’s a fairly new issue for the security community to look at health issues as a security threat.

“Traditionally, the security community looked at militaries and external military threats as the real issues that they had to deal with. And so I think it’s an evolving new concept that infectious diseases could actually threaten US security and other cases of state stability in other countries, which then might have implications for US security,” he says.

How would the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa affect US security?

Feldbaum says, “It’s clearly having a gigantic humanitarian impact in Africa. But when you start to think about the national security implications of it there are… real ways that could affect national security, both as states in Africa and by extension US interests. And that is its effect on strategically important people. Those are soldiers and peacekeepers and possibly undermining militaries and making it more difficult for militaries to defend themselves. That has some long-term effects, as well as making it more difficult to field UN peacekeeping missions. The second effect in Africa could be on potential for causing state instability. And I think there’s very little evidence here that HIV has caused any sort of state collapse or state instability to date. Although it is clear because it’s affecting the wide range of people, civil servants, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers that people are concerned that it is a big stressor on states that have very high rates of HIV, up to 30 or 40 percent. And people are therefore concerned that state stability is in jeopardy.” As a result, the loss of trained professionals could have major effects on the stability of a country.