Increased Efforts Needed To Train U.N. Peacekeeping Forces To Prevent HIV Transmission, Piot Says
Although there has been some progress in training U.N. peacekeeping forces and national armies in HIV prevention strategies, increased efforts are needed to curb the spread of the disease among militaries worldwide, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Monday, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Wadhams, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/18). Piot was addressing the U.N. Security Council during the body's review of Resolution 1308, which was adopted by the council in 2000 to institute HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs among peacekeepers. As many as 105 countries, most of them low- and middle-income nations, provide uniformed troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions. The missions include more than 66,000 frequently rotated soldiers and more than 13,000 international and national civilians serving in 17 peacekeeping or related operations (Altman, New York Times, 7/19).
Piot also presented to the Security Council the findings of a UNAIDS report released on Monday examining HIV prevention efforts among international and national military forces (Reuters, 7/18). The report found that there has been some progress on Resolution 1308, including increased collaboration between UNAIDS and the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in ensuring that HIV prevention efforts are a part of all U.N. peacekeeping missions. All major peacekeeping missions currently have full-time HIV/AIDS advisers, and smaller missions have HIV/AIDS focal points. In addition, more than one million HIV/AIDS awareness cards that include basic information on condom use have been produced in 13 languages and have been distributed to peacekeepers and national security forces. A peer education manual also is being used in military training in several countries that provide peacekeeping troops (UNAIDS release, 7/18). However, it is difficult to assess the efficacy of such efforts because many governments will not disclose the number of soldiers in their militaries who were HIV-positive in 2000, according to Piot and U.N. Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno (New York Times, 7/19).
Although progress has been made on Resolution 1308, the Security Council should ensure that increased efforts to provide HIV education and prevention services are taken, Piot said, adding, "Despite all that has been achieved since 2000, it is clear that there is still a long way to go, a fact made very evident by the recent reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/18). National governments also need to provide improved access to HIV testing and counseling, Piot said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/18). According to a joint survey conducted by UNAIDS, DPKO and CDC among more than 660 randomly selected peacekeepers in Liberia, only a small number of troops had received HIV/AIDS education in their battalions or detachments. In addition, less than 2% of respondents had received HIV/AIDS education from their commanding officers while in the mission area (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/18). Piot said that the Security Council should make HIV/AIDS education an "explicit and timebound goal," but the body agreed only to further address the issue and made no commitments (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 7/18).
HIV/AIDS Threatens Security
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a greater threat to international security than terrorism because it weakens economies, military and police forces, and governments and social structures, according to a report released on Monday by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The report -- written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the council -- says that the pandemic is a major security problem because soldiers and police are more likely than the general population to be HIV-positive in countries with high HIV prevalence (Kelly, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/19). In addition, many developing nations are directing antiretroviral drugs to political and military elite and away from the general population, the report says (Arieff, Reuters, 7/18). Although the report recommends that countries ensure that military and civilian elites have access to antiretrovirals, it also cautions that providing drugs only to such elites could destabilize the general population (New York Times, 7/19). However, some national security analysts disagreed with the report. James Robbins, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., said HIV/AIDS "is not a national security threat. It is a health threat. Just because a disease kills lots of people doesn't make it a security threat" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/19).
DOD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Success
Rick Shaffer -- executive director of the Department of Defense's HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, which aims to combat the epidemic among African militaries and the general public -- said the program has helped train more than two million African troops and more than 600 health care workers in HIV/AIDS care, diagnosis and counseling, VOA News reports. The program, which was launched more than four years ago, also has helped to build 200 counseling and testing centers on the continent. The department says that by assisting countries in implementing surveillance systems, it has been able to document declines in HIV prevalence among Senegal's and Ethiopia's militaries (Atkinson, VOA News, 7/18).