AIDS, A SECURITY THREAT?
Former classmate. April 2003
When UN Security Council resolution 1308 was passed five years ago, it demanded among other things that the UN peacekeepers address the subject of HIV/AIDS. This for many individuals as well as heads of governments was seen a deliberate strategy for the United Nations and global organizations to interfere with countries and their domestic affairs. Few understood or were even willing to engage the far reaching consequences of a pandemic of this type. Long before the Clinton administration’s declaration that AIDS was a threat to national security, public health officials and socio-political scientists had warned of close linkages between spread of the disease and social unrest.
Ok, so five years later it is becoming clearer just how lethargic we have been in adequately addressing this issue. HIV/AIDS is a unique pandemic that creates an extremely crippling force upon any society. When seen over a span of time, it can potentially create a wave of destruction that has no greater epidemiologic precedence in our modern history. (I think there is need for this type of alarm, as many still just don’t get it!!) Its parallel can only be found by examining the effects of the black plague in the 13th century. This will be the subject of a forthcoming post so I won’t spend time here. However when we examine the intricacies of this disease…its wrath lies mainly in the fact that it is what many have labeled “a smart disease.” This is due to the fact that it lies undetected in the body and is often spread unintentionally. It is also the disease which directly affects the productive sector of any population. The effects of fallout and death among the young adult population aren’t felt for a thirteen year span. At the local level, many children continue to be orphaned and as a result, significant numbers of them turn to crime. The statistics are staggering in a city like Johannesburg which shows the large number of violent crime that are caused by these orphaned youth. Many will in turn go on to contract the disease themselves. This type of behavior sets HIV/AIDS apart from tuberculosis and malaria, the other major epidemics that have killed millions in Africa and the developing world.
It is in such a framework of social decay that many see the breeding ground for future terrorists to emerge. Hopelessness coupled with what could be perceived as their governments’ inadequate provisions of their needs, may make many infected persons ripe for recruitment in radical terrorist organizations. It took quite some time for these linkages to be taken seriously....actually I argue that it was not until countries began to believe the pandemic to be a threat to their political, economic and military security that we witnessed drastic increases in spending and contributions towards the worsening crisis. Well, better late than never... It is best not finish reading this thinking AIDS is still an African thing, or a public health thing…..one of my goals remain to show architects and planners that it’s particularly their thing too. (More on this to come, I promise)