Bill Clinton Warns Global AIDS Epidemic Is ‘Bigger Threat’ Than International Terrorism
Former President Bill Clinton told the British National AIDS Trust Thursday that the global AIDS epidemic represents a "bigger threat" to the world than international terrorism, the Guardian reports. "There are now 40 million people living with AIDS. The number is projected to rise to 100 million by 2005. If that happens, it probably will be enough to crumble fledgling democracies," Clinton said in a memorial lecture in London honoring the late Princess Diana's commitment to fighting AIDS. In an "uncompromising" speech, Clinton compared the AIDS pandemic to the bubonic plague in 14th century Europe, stating that nations must develop both prevention and treatment campaigns to address the problem of HIV/AIDS. He praised Brazil for being "the only developing country to do both comprehensively" and for providing HIV-positive individuals with free antiretroviral medications (Boseley, Guardian, 12/14). "Unless we deal aggressively with AIDS now it will make us all poorer and less secure," he said, adding, "It is up to us to mobilize." Clinton also applauded the decision by South African pharmaceutical companies to drop a lawsuit against the government and allow the nation to manufacture and import less-expensive generic AIDS drugs, saying that the move has "opened the doors to cheaper and sometimes free" treatments for AIDS patients in South Africa (Lovell, Reuters, 12/13). However, he added that Western nations, including the United States, must contribute more funds to help fight the AIDS epidemic. "This is not rocket science. It is about money, organization and will," he said. The Guardian reports that the United States has only donated a "few million dollars" to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but according to Clinton, the U.S. contribution ought to be more than $2 billion. The fund, launched by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan this spring, has only raised $1.5 billion this year; Annan had hoped to raise $7 billion to $10 billion per year for the fund. "This is far cheaper than picking up the pieces of the shattered lands and shattered lives that we will live with if there are 100 million AIDS cases in 2005," Clinton said (Guardian, 12/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.