High HIV Rates Among Sub-Saharan African Militaries Could Become Security Threat
Approximately 10% to 60% of military personnel in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV-positive, which could become a security threat to developing countries, according to an article in the March/April issue of the Worldwatch Institute's World Watch magazine, the Washington Post reports. Countries such as South Africa, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 40% of the military is HIV-positive, are facing a "significantly higher" incidence of HIV/AIDS among military personnel than among the general public (Morin/Deane, Washington Post, 3/4). In addition, 15% of United Nations peacekeeping soldiers returning after three-year tours of duty are HIV-positive, compared with 7% returning following a one-year shift. The increases could be due in part to the higher incidence of rape during wartime and an "explosion of commercial sex work" in proximity to peacekeeping installations. According to the article, responses to the epidemic from the United Nations and national militaries "vary widely" (Worldwatch Institute release, 2/27). For example, Nigerian officials have made HIV prevention education a "major part" of military training, and they also distribute condoms and offer treatment to soldiers, the Post reports. Similar efforts have proven successful in other countries, such as Uganda, where HIV infection rates among military personnel have dropped from more than 10% in 1990 to less than 7% today (Washington Post, 3/4). Radhika Sarin, the author of the article, said that "[s]enior military officials and national defense ministers are finally beginning to recognize this emerging threat, but there are considerable differences in how militaries are approaching such issues as HIV testing among soldiers." The magazine also includes an interview with Sandra Thurman, former head of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (Worldwatch Institute release, 2/27).
The United States and Ethiopia on Saturday signed a "tripartite" five-year agreement to provide HIV/AIDS assistance for the Ethiopian military, the Ethiopian News Agency reports. The CDC will provide approximately $330,000 annually for HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention programs -- including voluntary counseling and testing in military hospitals in Harer and Mekele -- for military personnel, their families and other civilians. The agreement also calls for a "behavioral change communication strategy" to fight the spread of the disease along the country's border with Djbouti, the Ethiopian News Agency reports. The agreement was signed by U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Aurelia Brazeal, CDC Country Director Dr. Tadese Wuhib and Head of Administration and Finance of the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense Major General Haile Tilahun (Ethiopian News Agency, 3/4).