SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS DEBATE ON IMPACT OF AIDS ON PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFRICA

10 January 2000
SC/6781

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS DEBATE ON IMPACT OF AIDS ON PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFRICA

10 January 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6781

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS DEBATE ON IMPACT OF AIDS ON PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFRICA

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The Security Council met this morning in an open debate on the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa. The debate marked the first time that the Council has discussed a health issue as a threat to peace and security. The meeting, which lasted for more than seven hours, was addressed by over 40 speakers.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the impact of AIDS in Africa was no less destructive than that of warfare itself. By overwhelming the continent’s health services, by creating millions of orphans, and by decimating health workers and teachers, AIDS was causing socio-economic crises which, in turn, threatened political stability.

In already unstable societies, he continued, that cocktail of disasters was a sure recipe for more conflict, which, in turn, provided fertile ground for further infections. HIV/AIDS was not only an African problem, but a global one that must be recognized as such; within that international obligation, however, the fight against AIDS in Africa was an immediate priority and must be part and parcel of the international community’s work for peace and security on the continent.

Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States, speaking in his capacity as President of the Council, said today’s historic session not only recognized the real and present danger to world security posed by the AIDS pandemic –- it also began a month-long focus by the Council on the special challenges confronting the African continent. “By the power of example, this meeting demands of us that we see security through a new and wider prism, and forever after, think about it according to a new, more expansive definition”, he said.

He said there were new forces that now or soon would challenge the international order, raising issues of peace and war. It was time to change the nature of the way “we live together on this planet”, he said. From that vantage point, “we must forge and follow a new agenda for world security”. That agenda included the challenges of: the environment; drugs and corruption; terror; and new pandemics.

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* The 4086th Meeting was privately held.

Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6781 4087th Meeting (AM & PM) 10 January 2000

James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, said that AIDS was not just a health or development issue, but one affecting the peace and security of people in the continent of Africa, as well as people throughout the world. While life expectancy in Africa had increased by 24 years under African leadership over the last four decades, the development gains seen in the continent were threatened by the AIDS epidemic. In too many countries, the gains of life expectancy were being wiped out. More teachers were dying each week than could be trained. Judges, government officials and military personnel were being ravaged.

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), proposed the following actions: support for Africa’s frontline efforts to combat the disease; promote inter-country cooperation; and mobilize more resources. The United States, with 40,000 new cases annually, spent $10 billion each year on prevention, care, treatment and research, while in Africa, with 4 million new cases each year, approximately $165 million in official money was spent. “We must mobilize more”, said Mr. Malloch Brown, who is also Chairman of the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of the Joint Programme United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said in countries where strong political leadership, openness about the issues, and broad, cross-cutting responses came together, the tide was turning against AIDS. In Uganda, the rate of new infections was falling, and in Senegal, it had been rolled back significantly as a result of massive information and prevention campaigns. To sustain and expand the success stories of Uganda and Senegal, there was need to mobilize between $1 and $3 billion a year. He noted that it was worth pondering how the international community had successfully mobilized hundreds of billions of dollars over the last few years to minimize the impact of that "other" virus –- Y2K.

A number speakers also drew attention to the conspiracy of silence about AIDS and called for the disease to be openly confronted. The speaker for Zambia said African political leaders must recognize the disease for what it was, “a threat to our very survival as viable nations”. In supporting the inclusion of AIDS education as an essential part of curricula in schools, he said such education not only removed the stigma on the AIDS condition, but also led to positive changes in behaviour by groups most at risk.

Also speaking in today's debate were Ministers and representatives of Namibia, Bangladesh, France, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Ukraine, Mali, Jamaica, Algeria, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Cape Verde (on behalf of the African Group at the United Nations), Norway, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Libya, Djibouti, Mongolia, Indonesia, Cuba, Italy, New Zealand (on behalf of the South Pacific Forum), Cyprus, Nigeria, Australia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.

Security Council - 1b - Press Release SC/6781 4087th Meeting (AM & PM) 10 January 2000

David Satcher, Surgeon-General of the United States, also addressed the Council.

Today’s meeting began at 10:37 a.m and was suspended briefly at 11:17 a.m. It resumed at 11:30 a.m. and suspended again at 1 p.m. Resuming at 2:42 p.m., the meeting was suspended at 4 p.m. and resumed at 4:03 p.m. It was adjourned at 6:50 p.m.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa.

Statements

AL GORE, Vice-President of the United States and President of the Security Council, said today marked the first time after more than 50 years that the Security Council would discuss a health issue as a security threat. No one could doubt that the havoc wreaked and the toll exacted by HIV/AIDS threatened the world’s security. The heart of the security agenda was protecting lives. “We now know that the number of people who will die of AIDS in the first decade of the twenty-first century will rival the number that died in all the decades of the twentieth century”, he said.

He said that today’s historic session not only recognized the real and present danger to world security posed by the AIDS pandemic -– it also began a month-long focus by the Council on the special challenges confronting the African continent. “By the power of example, this meeting demands of us that we see security through a new and wider prism and, forever after, think about it according to a new, more expansive definition”, he said.

He said that for the past half century, the Council had dealt with a classic security agenda built upon common efforts to resist aggression, and to stop armed conflict. But while the old threats still faced the global community, there were new forces that now or soon would challenge the international order, raising issues of peace and war. It was time to change the nature of the way “we live together on this planet”, he said. From that vantage point, “we must forge and follow a new agenda for world security”. That agenda included the challenges of: the environment; drugs and corruption; terror; and new pandemics.

He said the new security agenda should be pursued with determination, adequate resources, and the creative use of the new tools at the world’s disposal. “We must create a world where people’s faith in their own capacity for self-governance unlocks their human potential, and justifies their growing belief that all can share in an ever-widening circle of human dignity and self- sufficiency”, he said.

He stressed that if there was to be success in addressing the new security agenda, there must be recognition that, because of rapid population growth and the historically unprecedented power of the new technologies at the world’s disposal, mistakes which were once tolerable could now have consequences that were multiplied many times over. Threats that were once local could now have consequences that were regional or global; once temporary, damage could now become chronic or catastrophic.

KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said that at the beginning of the new millennium, Africa seemed to have more than its share of the world’s problems. Of the 48 least developed countries, 33 were in Africa; roughly half of the two-dozen or more conflicts raging around the world were in Africa; 15 sub-Saharan African countries were currently faced with food emergencies; the food supplies of more than 10 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone were threatened by civil strife; and out of 11 million orphans so far left by the global AIDS epidemic, 90 per cent were African children.

Those figures amply justified the decision of the United States to make January a “Month of Africa” in the Security Council, he said. Within that month, it was entirely appropriate that the Council should be devoting its first session to the problem of AIDS. Not that AIDS was a purely African problem; in many countries outside the continent, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, it was spreading at an alarming rate. But nowhere else had AIDS become a threat to economic, social and political stability on the scale that it now was in Southern and Eastern Africa.

He said that the impact of AIDS in that region was no less destructive than that of warfare itself. By some measures, it was far worse. Last year, AIDS had killed about 10 times more people in Africa than had armed conflict. By overwhelming the continent’s health services, by creating millions of orphans and by decimating health workers and teachers, AIDS was causing social and economic crises which, in turn, threatened political stability. The disease also threatened good governance through high death rates among both public and private elites.

In already unstable societies, he said, that cocktail of disasters was a sure recipe for more conflict. And conflict, in turn, provided fertile ground for further infections. The breakdown of health and education services, the obstruction of humanitarian assistance, the displacement of whole populations and a high infection rate among soldiers -– as in other groups which moved back and forth across the continent -– all ensured that the epidemic spread ever further and faster.

He said that HIV/AIDS was not only an African problem, but a global one that must be recognized as such. But within that international obligation, the fight against AIDS in Africa was an immediate priority, which must be part and parcel of the international community’s work for peace and security in that continent. It was hoped that today’s meeting would help to make clear to the whole world that the United Nations system was today giving Africa’s problems the attention they needed, and which Africans deserved.

Mr. GORE, Vice President of the United States and President of the Security Council, said HIV/AIDS was not someone else’s problem, but everyone’s problems. Those words had been spoken by the President of South Africa and should be spoken all across the earth. The threat of AIDS was real for all people and every nation. Borders could not keep it out. AIDS was a global aggressor that must be defeated. Over the past decade, a rising wave of African nations had moved from dictatorship to democracy, and economic growth had tripled. That progress, however, was imperiled by the threat of AIDS. For the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS was not only a security but a humanitarian crisis. It weakened work forces, sapped economic strength, and deprived many of education.

He said the Surgeon General of the United States, David Satcher, said there was no overcoming the ignorance that led and contributed to infection by HIV/AIDS. Many long hours had been spent with African leaders on the crisis. It was inspiring to see so many fighting on that continent to save the lives of those they knew. Uganda was now showing dramatic drops in infection and was proof that the tide could be turned against AIDS. The first line of defence was prevention. Today, the AIDS crisis was being put at the top of the Security Council agenda. It must not be discussed in whispers. The resolve must be to end the stigma associated with AIDS. If that was not done, then the problem could not be combated.

He said that fewer than 5 per cent of those living with AIDS in Africa had access to basic care. The ultimate goal was to prevent infection by vaccination. The United States was committed to research. President William Clinton had pledged the United States to develop vaccines to combat the diseases that afflicted the poorer nations; however, more had to be done. The United States had initially committed $100 million to the fight against AIDS in the poorer countries. An increase to $325 million had been put to the United States Congress, which would take action next month.

He also announced that the increased budget would include $50 million for the vaccine fund for global vaccination and immunization. An initiative for an expanded public and private sector partnership in the fight against AIDS had also been proposed. Through public and private efforts, there should also be efforts to attack the cycle of infection, including mother-to-child infection. He challenged the world’s wealthier countries to meet the United States’ initiative to combat the threat of AIDS and underscored that the many inspiring efforts to fight AIDS were, by and large, isolated and did not amount to a global assault.

JAMES WOLFENSOHN, President of the World Bank, said that AIDS today was not only claiming lives, but also changing the very nature of development. More than 11 million Africans had already died of AIDS, 22 million were living with HIV/AIDS, and 9 million African children had been orphaned by it. In Zambia and Zimbabwe, there was more chance of a child born today dying from AIDS than living free of the disease.

He said that AIDS was not just a health or development issue, but one affecting the peace and security of people in the continent of Africa, as well as people throughout the world. While life expectancy in Africa had increased by 24 years under African leadership over the last four decades, the development gains seen in the continent were threatened by the AIDS epidemic. In too many countries, the gains of life expectancy were being wiped out. More teachers were dying each week than could be trained. Judges, government officials and military personnel were being ravaged.

In AIDS, the world faced a war more debilitating than war itself, he said. The world faced a major development and security crisis. Without economic and social hope, there could not be peace, and AIDS undermined both. Not only did AIDS threaten stability, but a breakdown in peace fuelled the pandemic.

Following a suspension, from 11:17 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chairman of the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), spoke. He said HIV/AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to 69 per cent of the worldwide total. At a time when the industrialized world had relaxed as the incidence of new infections declined, Africa was under siege. Many times more people were being killed in sub-Saharan Africa each year from the disease than in the world’s wars. He congratulated Richard Holbrooke, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, for the vision to go beyond the old definitions and bring to the table a discussion of the world’s most dangerous insurgency.

HIV/AIDS had a qualitatively different impact from a traditional health killer, such as malaria, he continued. It ripped across social structures, targeting young people, particularly girls. It cut deep into all sectors of society, undermining vital economic growth, perhaps reducing future gross domestic product (GDP) in the region by a third over the next 20 years. It set up a desperate conflict over inadequate resources. “Today, this is Africa’s drama”, he said. “Unmet, it becomes the world’s.”

He said it should be viewed as a three-front war: first, the classrooms and clinics of Africa; second, the families of Africa; and third, international action, which was critical in backing Africa’s frontline. The schools and clinics were not only at the heart of any defensive strategy for dealing with the epidemic; they spearheaded the offensive for cultural and behavioural change. The possibilities had already been seen. In Uganda, there was now a real prospect of an almost AIDS-free generation of high-school-age children.

Behavioural change required uncompromising, often painfully embarrassing, honesty, he said. There was, too often, a lethal double-standard when it came to AIDS; too much unsafe sex and too little willingness to talk about it or face its consequences. Change must begin by confronting the region’s troubled inheritance, which included extensive migrant labour, social norms and gender inequality. That inheritance made it hard for women and girls to deny men sex, which led to HIV incidence rates among girls three or four times higher than boys.

He proposed the following set of actions: support Africa’s frontline efforts to combat the disease; promote inter-country cooperation, so that Uganda’s best practice was effectively transferred to other countries; and mobilize more resources. The United States, with 40,000 new cases annually, spent $10 billion a year on prevention, care, treatment and research, while in Africa, with 4 million new cases each year, approximately $165 million in official money was spent. “We must mobilize more”, he said.

Further, he said, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, together with UNAIDS, had begun to establish new public-private partnerships to guarantee a market for affordable vaccines, to create an incentive for drug-company research and development. That “pull” must be combined with the “push” to increase basic public health- research spending. Related to that, the world could not allow itself to lapse into a two-tier treatment regime of drugs for the rich, no hope for the poor. Prevention must be emphasized, but treatment could not be ignored, and its cost, in cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry, must be reduced.

Finally, he said, the epidemic could not be broken in isolation from the broader development context. Weak government, poor services and economic failure translated directly into failed vaccine and contaminated blood supply chains. Amidst the good news of more help for HIV/AIDS and progress on debt relief, the overwhelming fact was that the region’s basic development needs were not being met. There was a money gap, as well as a governance and capacity gap. HIV/AIDS was a particularly cruel manifestation of the wider development challenge. No other challenge could so shape the overall direction of the new century, either towards globalization for all, or towards a century of walls and fences.

PETER PIOT, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said war was the instrument of AIDS and rape was an instrument of war. Conflict and the resulting movements of people had fuelled the epidemic. Undoubtedly, however, the epidemic itself caused socio-economic crises which, in turn, threatened political stability. An important part of UNAIDS work was developing strategies for the control and mitigation of AIDS in countries in crisis.

He said, “we are far from powerless against this epidemic”. In countries where strong political leadership, openness about the issues, and broad, cross- cutting responses came together, the tide was turning, and clear success was being demonstrated. In Uganda, the rate of new infections was falling, and in Senegal, it had been rolled back significantly as a result of massive information and prevention campaigns.

He said the two decades of experience had identified the essential elements of effective strategy: visibility and open-mindedness and countering stigma; addressing core vulnerability through social policies; addressing the synergy between prevention and care; targeting interpretations to those most vulnerable; encouraging and supporting strong community participation in the response; and focusing on young people. He said that in 1997 the international community had only mobilized $150 million for AIDS prevention for the most affected countries. To sustain and expand the success stories of Uganda and Senegal, there was need to mobilize between $1 and $3 billion a year. He noted that it was worth pondering how the international community had successfully mobilized hundreds of billions of dollars over the last few years to minimize the impact of that "other" virus -– Y2K.

He said over the last year, African governments, the United Nations, international donors, civil society and the private sector had come together to form a new international partnership against AIDS in Africa. What was needed from each constituency of that partnership was for African governments to create the environment for effective action; for the United Nations system to mobilize additional and existing resources to respond to the epidemic; for donor governments to take concerted action to work together at the country level under nationally owned strategic plans; for the private sector to work in concert with governments; and for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to carry out and intensify work at the frontline of the epidemic.

He said the bottom line for the future was to develop and make available, safe and affordable vaccines and other technologies required for preventing HIV infections. The bottom line for today was that everything must be done “in our power to apply what we know works: to reduce vulnerability, to prevent HIV infection through behavioural change, and to support wide-scale implementation of efforts to provide care and access to the drugs and services required to prolong and improve life”.

LIBERTINE AMATHILA, Minister of Health and Social Services of Namibia, said that Africa, home to just 10 per cent of the world’s population, carried over 70 per cent of the global total of HIV/AIDS cases. The impact of the epidemic’s social and economic consequences was felt through the erosion of growth in GDP, especially in the heavily affected countries. That was affecting the labour force, which, in turn, negatively affected the breadwinners and their families.

She said that while the HIV/AIDS issue was not under the Security Council’s purview, the Council’s primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security would contribute in a major way to minimizing the epidemic’s impact in Africa. By effectively addressing conflict situations in the continent, the Council would assist African governments in devoting more resources to tackling social and economic problems. Namibia urged arms- producing nations to cease providing arms to rebel movements in Africa. It was very important to end conflict in the continent so that peace and security could become a reality.

It was immoral, she said, that while Africa had the lowest access to care, social and economic safety nets and HIV drugs, it had major access to small arms. In countries marred by conflict, governments were forced by circumstances to channel their resources to efforts to bring about peace, rather than catering for the sick. African governments had the political will to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, but the lack of resources was a real constraint that must be addressed by the international community. Not many governments could afford the drugs and, as a result, they had to make a difficult choice between prevention and treatment of those already infected.

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said AIDS was a tragedy that could hardly be managed, a disaster that was extremely difficult to tame, and a tragedy that had failed to be addressed in all its dimensions. The AIDS pandemic was devastating many African economies. Due to the high costs of treatment, little was accessible to the poor. The social impact of the epidemic was also staggering. As the Secretary-General had said, “AIDS was taking away not only Africa's present, but also its future”. The armed forces and civilian law enforcement were slumping as AIDS took its toll on their personnel. Those bodies played a crucial role in peacekeeping, and their vulnerability to infection affected the defence of peace.

The threat of AIDS was not only confined to Africa –- it was a threat to the global community. The epidemic was a latecomer to Asia and the Pacific, but the spread had been swift. It was predicted that in the years to come, the number might grow exponentially. While the magnitude and dimension of HIV/AIDS might be terrifying, the measures needed to combat it were known. Some measures which needed priority attention were: strengthening ongoing efforts, with special emphasis on the young and children; forging new and secure public- private partnerships; full support for the scientific community to speed up their work to develop effective vaccines; and the availability of effective treatment to people at prices that affected societies could afford. In addition, adequate resources should be made available to fight the epidemic, to develop preventive measures, and to mitigate the harm already done.

He said the world would not be a secure place if women and men had no security of their individual self. “We are glad that recognition has been accorded to the more encompassing dimension of security. We hope that the pioneering initiative of the United States will be pursued by others in justified earnestness”, he said.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said that Africa’s AIDS crisis was made even more serious by its long-term effects. If the international community’s vigilance failed, the ensuing sustained health, economic and political crisis would overwhelm the strategies promoted for the continent’s sustained development and wipe out any gains made.

He said that in order to prevent and combat the effects of AIDS, his country, the main donor to Africa, had assisted since the 1980s in the fight against the epidemic. Over the last decade, that amounted to approximately $100 million mobilized through 60 projects, in addition to France's contributions to multilateral agencies and complimentary contributions by its diplomatic missions.

France was aware that such efforts, as well as those of other donors, could not, by themselves, succeed in helping to confront the challenge of AIDS. It was for that reason that France supported the initiative by UNAIDS to form an international partnership against AIDS in Africa whose aim was to reinforce the mobilization of the international community, and in which France was an active participant.

He said it was also in that spirit that his country wished to see the establishment of an International Fund for Therapeutic Solidarity, aimed at improving access to anti-AIDS treatment for developing countries and financed by public and private contributions. The AIDS epidemic had aggravated the enormous gap between rich and poor countries, creating unacceptable inequalities which affected the most basic human right -- the right to life. Was it unacceptable that there be treatment of infected persons in the North and not of those in the South? CRISPS KIYONGA, Minister of Health of Uganda, said his country had been cited as one of the countries that had made some progress in lowering infection rates by HIV/AIDS. The average life expectancy in Uganda now stood at 47 years. Access to health care was very low, as only 50 per cent of the population was within a five-kilometre radius of health-care facilities. The AIDS problem had afflicted Uganda for some time now, and there was a huge prevalence of infection among females rather than males. That had contributed to heterosexual transmission of HIV/AIDS and mother-to-child transmission of the virus. It had also contributed to the re-emergence of tuberculosis which had hitherto been under control. AIDS threatened security and development. Uganda had lost half a million of its people to the epidemic in the last 10 years. That had resulted in huge number of orphans. It had also reversed socio-economic gains made in the country.

Uganda had responded to the pandemic in a number of ways. There had been strong coalitions of national and international forces to fight the virus. Sexual aids control programmes had been established in many key sectors of society. The Church, NGOs and community-based organizations had made useful contributions in the fight against AIDS. A key intervention had been a high profile public health-education programme. Under a UNAIDS-sponsored programme, 1,000 people had been treated for AIDS at a cost of $12,000 per patient per year. That cost, however, was prohibitive to poor countries like his. Political will had also contributed immensely to participation in HIV/AIDS research efforts.

He said recent research had resulted in a drug which prevented mother-to- child infection. The new drug could reduce infection by 50 per cent in comparison to AZT. It cost about $4 per person in contrast to the $150 per person for AZT. Uganda had also started to test vaccine candidates. There had been success in achieving behavioural change -– large numbers of people were sticking to one partner and were now using condoms which had previously been regarded as taboo. HIV/AIDS had also been destigmatized, and many people were now turning up to be tested. There was now a declining prevalence of the disease in the country; however, challenges remained, since the epidemic rate was still very high.

TIMOTHY STAMPS, Minister of Health of Zimbabwe, said the world had recently been through a highly expensive and largely uncoordinated exercise to eliminate the risk of some people losing money and data, or of some people disrupting their busy schedules. There was a sense of wonder that intelligent beings in the metropolitan countries could be so oblivious to what had happened in Africa in the past 15 years. An estimated $600 billion had been spent on a largely irrelevant threat -- if that threat had ever existed -- while the world at large had laconically watched the exponential growth of the HIV epidemic in areas not materially linked to the growth of the international economy.

He said that while Zimbabwe had accepted the repeated canard from international agencies that, except for one country, there was no political leadership in Africa on the AIDS issue, his country was one of many that had achieved the impossible. It had induced its populations to understand that the exercise of a completely normal, necessary and entirely pleasurable human function could have fatal consequences.

Zimbabwe, he said, was currently experiencing one of the highest HIV seropositivity rates in the world. Whether those rates would change as a result of statistically valid reports from the country's newly established Voluntary Counselling and Testing centres, where healthy people sought to determine their HIV seropositivity, was eagerly awaited. The approximately 8,000 voluntary blood donors had consistently shown much lower rates of seropositivity, which were progressively declining, as well as showing a dramatic reduction in seroconversion rates since 1994. That was an indication that positive behaviour change was realistically achievable. Uniquely in Africa, Zimbabwe had screened all donated blood for HIV since September 1985.

He said that his country, which lost nearly 1,000 people a week to HIV/AIDS, had no access to modern therapies. Was that merely a lack of understanding or a new form of racial discrimination or another ethnic cleansing process? The rich nations railed extensively against the mistreatment of two journalists in Zimbabwe, and yet the country was supposed to accept that withholding available therapies from those who needed them was not an offence against human rights, the right to health being one of the paramount, universal rights.

The meeting suspended at 1 p.m.

When the meeting resumed at 2:40 p.m., PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said the impact of AIDS was a legitimate aspect for an open meeting of the Security Council. The interface between AIDS and conflict in Africa seemed to be obvious. AIDS was a health problem, but one that devastated whole economies, overwhelmed entire public health systems, and ultimately tended to destroy the very fabric of complete societies. As such, it was responsible for an unprecedented degree of gloom and despair, which, in itself, was one of the most virulent seeds of conflict.

He said conflicts also had an accelerating effect on the spread of HIV/AIDS. Soldiers and displaced civilians on the move were important sources of disease dissemination, and in areas of conflict the fight against AIDS was particularly difficult. If the Council, therefore, was expected to contribute to increased awareness, it might usefully concentrate on that particular aspect of the problem by calling upon all African States to demonstrate their commitment to the battle against AIDS by focusing on the armed forces under their command. “Let awareness, and the responsibility and the discipline, start with the military”, he stressed.

He said the Netherlands would continue to contribute to the fight against AIDS, especially in Africa, at least at the current level. His country was, both in absolute terms and per capita, the second donor worldwide.

ARNOLDO MANUEL LISTRE (Argentina) said his country had been maintaining that, in the post-cold-war world, threats to international peace and security could now be related to issues that had nothing to do with war, but to human security. Peace and development were two sides of the same coin. There could be no peace without economic and social progress for all people. Actions taken or not taken by the international community in the next five years would be significant not only for Africa’s future, but also that of all mankind.

He said that the fight against AIDS should be a part of national agendas on the same level as the struggle against poverty and ignorance. The epidemic was increasing three times as fast as efforts to control it. In the spirit of the 1999 summit of the Group of Seven industrialized countries and the Russian Federation, held in Cologne, Germany, the developed countries should consider reducing the debt of the poorest countries. Civil society, including NGOs, should play a greater part in combating AIDS.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said the AIDS pandemic had presented, and continued to present, major challenges to governments throughout the world, but nowhere was the crisis more daunting than in Africa. The fact that one quarter to one half of African personnel in the health, education, security and civil service sectors were expected to die from AIDS within the next five to 10 years was not only a serious human tragedy, but also a tangible threat to peace and order in the affected countries, which already confronted many other challenges. The efforts of the African governments to stem the tide of AIDS were hampered by civil strife, refugee flows, rapid urbanization and poverty; each of which, in turn, contributed to the further spread of HIV infection and AIDS.

Referring to African participation in peacekeeping operations, he said that, in sub-Saharan Africa, ministries of defence reported averages of 20 to 40 per cent HIV positivity within their armed services. As the disease progressed, it would mean a loss of continuity at the command level and within the ranks, and a reduction in the effectiveness of prior peacekeeping training.

Canada had been involved in the international fight against AIDS since 1987, he continued. Total funding in support of HIV/AIDS projects in developing countries had reached $22 million in 1999 alone. He welcomed the courageous decisions of most African governments in recognizing that the first battle to be won in the war against HIV/AIDS was to break the silence and remove the stigma surrounding it. Stating that it was clear that Africa could not face the problem alone, he said Canada was one of many countries that had joined efforts with non-governmental and multilateral organizations to assist Africans in their fight against AIDS. The Secretary-General’s launch of the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa was a welcome development that should help ensure a coordinated approach involving national governments, private enterprise and multilateral agencies.

For its part, Canada pledged to support African governments as they took the lead in generating their own national strategic plans to combat HIV/AIDS, as well as to support community groups in their responses to HIV/AIDS. Canada also pledged to establish priorities in programming to ensure optimal impact and cost-effective interventions. It would also promote sustainable development through a broad approach, including such basic human needs as education, primary health care and gender equity.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said it was obvious that that the AIDS issue was no longer essentially an African problem, but rather a global problem affecting many other regions, including Asia, where it was becoming an issue of major concern. While very few regions had been spared, developing countries bore the greatest burden, as a result of their incapacity to contain the virus. It was, therefore, fitting and proper that the fight against AIDS be mounted on a global scale. The recent meeting on international partnerships was the first major step in the right direction of galvanizing and coordinating global action. There should be concrete follow-up actions, and he looked forward to an agreed plan of action to be finalized in May of this year.

Poor, developing countries were most traumatized by the disease, he said. Wealthier developed countries should -- out of enlightened self-interest, if not pure altruism -- make available more resources to ameliorate the effects of the disease in the developing countries, particularly the affected African countries. Developed countries could make the necessary drugs available to African countries and pressure pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices or allow compulsory licensing of life-saving drugs. As Malaysia's Prime Minister had said, it was regrettable that profit was taking precedent over people's lives.

The international community must not only do more in addressing AIDS, it must do it better, he continued. The United Nations system, with its global mission of protecting and promoting human rights, peace and security, was uniquely placed to provide assistance. Even though the world was gradually coming to grips with AIDS, the international community was still underestimating the impact of the epidemic. He welcomed the announcement of additional resources by the Vice-President of the United States. Nothing could be more appropriate for a “Marshall Plan” by the developed countries to deal with the issue.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said the topic of HIV/AIDS needed a profile, since not all African governments acted as if they had such a problem. Although Uganda and Senegal had made great efforts to address their problem, and a few other African countries were beginning to do the same, many others were not. There was need for behaviour to change and the issue had to be taken up by Africans. The prevalence of AIDS was the failure of development, security and education. That was the fault of both Africans and the international community. Resources were also needed. The United Kingdom announced last month that £32 million would go towards AIDS in Africa.

The question to be asked, in light of today’s meeting, was how did one ensure that there would be follow up. Rhetoric was easy to produce, but it would not help. The process needed to be moved forward. The United Nations must also have a system of cooperation with governments. Would there be a register or clearing house to establish what programmes were being done in which countries? he asked. That would avoid the duplication of some programmes in certain countries and prevent other countries from being left out. There was also a need for leadership. The UNAIDS and UNDP could bring that together. Another question to be asked was what role the Council could play.

Dr. PIOT, of UNAIDS, responding to the question raised on a clearing house, said such a clearing house existed on both a regional basis and in countries. Bilateral donors and regional actors were joining the groups and looking at information exchange. However, more needed to be done with private sector and NGOs.

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said that the very fact that the Security Council was holding today’s meeting was a positive step in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Efforts for peace, security and development could only achieve their full potential if the entire international community worked together to defeat the scourge of AIDS.

He said his country was opposed to discrimination against the developing countries in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and urged the strengthening of African countries to fight the epidemic. Tunisia was willing to coordinate its efforts with those of other African countries and of the entire international community.

VOLODYMYR YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) said the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the countries of sub-Saharan Africa was especially devastating. It killed the most productive and active members of the population, thus, increasing labour costs, reducing formal and informal sector productivity, eroding development and increasing health and welfare expenditures. That undermined the potential for sustainable development, exacerbated already existing crises and emergencies, and contributed to the fragility of States and their susceptibility to internal strife of a social and inter-ethnic character. In recent years, AIDS had also resulted in the orphaning of children in the developing world.

His country had been hit by the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic at an alarming rate in recent years. At some point, his Government had begun to address it not just as a health issue, but rather as one of national security. The first lesson learned was that the problem of AIDS should be fully recognized, and never ignored or underestimated. Today’s discussion would contribute to increasing global awareness of the AIDS problem. Only the concerted efforts of the international community would be able to address the issue of the pandemic. His country was ready to join those efforts. He hoped the meeting would provide a powerful impetus to the beginning of a qualitatively new stage in the struggle against AIDS.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) read a message to the President of the Security Council from President Alpha Konare of Mali, who is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He said that peace and security did not mean the absence of military conflict, but depended upon the socio-economic realities of nations.

He said that the foreseeable macroeconomic consequence of the AIDS pandemic was the decline in the competitiveness of African economies, which was already ailing at the international level. AIDS, thus, constituted the major threat to Africa’s economic development. It was at the root of growing poverty among African societies, which was resulting in the progressive breakdown of the family and social control that governed communal and individual life.

A loss of African identity had resulted from the growing opening of the continent, he said. Powerful media influences had flooded Africa with sounds and violent images that were not always positive. Finally, there was a political crisis, characterized by the collapse of government health systems. Solutions to the AIDS crisis involved solutions to the other crises affecting Africa, including the explosion in health-care costs. The international community must implement a global and coordinated strategy to conquer the epidemic.

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said that today’s debate pointed to the need for greater cooperation between the Security Council, the General Assembly, the specialized agencies, the Bretton Woods institutions and United Nations funds and programmes. The recently launched International Partnership against AIDS in Africa was a significant step in bringing together governments, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector. The Security Council could, and should, provide the moral and political commitment necessary to obtain the global financial and technical resources needed to support the Partnership.

She said that while research continued to seek a cure for AIDS, the international community must build on the experiences and lessons learned from those countries that had successfully reduced the spread of the disease. The stigma of AIDS must be removed through public education, providing information on how the disease was transmitted, and “at risk” behaviour must be changed. Further, public health facilities for testing, particularly for women of child- bearing age, must be provided. Also, the cost of medication and treatment must be reduced and made widely available, and social and economic support, particularly to AIDS orphans, must be provided.

The meeting suspended at 3:55 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.

ABDELKADER MESDOUA (Algeria) said the United States’ interest in Africa could mean that the Security Council would finally begin to address its commitments to Africa, by moving from statements to action. The AIDS pandemic was compromising Africa’s chances of recovery and regaining its place in the family of nations. In economic terms, AIDS was also affecting the economic gains of many African countries. AIDS would also easily spread among the poor, uneducated citizens with no access to health care -- the specially designated victims of the virus.

He said that Africa, since the beginning of the 1990s, had become aware of the danger of the pandemic. From 1992, a number of measures, decisions and plans of action had been taken, which testified to the awareness by African leaders of the problems. Merely mobilizing limited local means was far from sufficient to guarantee tangible progress. What was required was coordinated, decisive and long-term efforts. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in 1998 launched an appeal for international support. A plan of action to combat AIDS in Africa existed; it was just a question of finding resources.

ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said it was essential to make education, information, counselling and sexual health services available to young people. The Union welcomed the Programme of Action for the Decade of Education by the African Ministers of Education and the OAU Summit in Algiers, which acknowledged the need for HIV/AIDS education. Knowledge would remain the best preventive measure against the epidemic.

He said that, given the threatening impact of AIDS on social and economic development and its destabilizing effect on peace and security in the region, the Security Council had a responsibility to take the epidemic into consideration in its work. HIV/AIDS could not be dealt with effectively by a single United Nations body, but must be handled in a holistic manner by all sectors of the Organization aimed at a stable peace and security and long-term social and economic development. Today’s debate would strengthen the urgency for implementing the imperatives for action on the security aspects of HIV/AIDS, as proposed by UNAIDS.

JOSÉ LUIS BARBOSA LEAO MONTEIRO (Cape Verde) said the struggle against AIDS in Africa would be waged in more difficult conditions, if the environments of poverty and development were not addressed. While the combined efforts of African governments, friendly countries and the United Nations system had certainly slowed down the spread of AIDS on the African continent, they had still fallen short of what was required to address a problem of such magnitude. Only a real coalition of efforts, working in synergy, could offer some success in combating the international scourge of AIDS.

He said the spread of AIDS was due to the wall of silence and denial, which stemmed from shame and stigma. Africa was no different in that respect. That wall of silence must be broken in order to reverse the impact of the epidemic. The political weight of the Council and that of its members would provide credibility to the collective response to AIDS. Reduction of human suffering on the continent would require making medications and treatment available. The cost of that could be as much as $2 billion -– a relatively modest figure.

ARNE HONNINGSTAD (Norway), while stressing the importance of preventive measures, said that the millions of people already infected and affected by HIV/AIDS must not be forgotten. Their appropriate care and human rights must be ensured. The stigma accompanying the virus not only led to unnecessary human suffering, but also impeded measures that required frankness to succeed. The large number of AIDS orphans was another challenge requiring attention.

He said that a broad multisectoral approach was needed to mitigate the pandemic's effects on social and economic development in Africa, as well as on peace and security. The erosion of human capital affected the education system, the productive sectors, government and administration and, hence, the security situation, and could not be dealt with by the health sector alone. A broad range of actors within the international community -- including, but not limited to, the co-sponsors of UNAIDS -- had important roles to play in supporting the efforts of Member States.

DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said that at the end of 1999 more people were living with HIV/AIDS in the developing countries than in the developed world. The reason for that disparity was not hard to find. The core difference between the developed and developing worlds was the level of development. The answer lay in the difference in living standards. Until there was a cure, the level of development in each country would influence the spread of such a disease.

Poverty and underdevelopment destroyed families and health systems, he said. While the search must continue for ways of halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as a cure for the disease, the only way to immediately address the epidemic’s spread was through uplifting the standard of living in developing countries. Addressing issues of poverty was central to that approach.

YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said his country had three approaches to combat AIDS in Africa. First, it placed a high priority on the issue in its official medium-term policy on official development assistance, by providing technical assistance and grants to many countries on the continent to help them fight the disease. Under its Global Issues Initiative on Population and AIDS, Japan’s financial contribution had already reached $3.7 billion by the end of the fiscal year 1998. Although the seven-year initiative was due to be completed at the end of the fiscal year 2000, the Japanese Government was determined to expand its support for the fight against AIDS by building upon what had been accomplished so far.

Second, Japan was firmly committed to supporting UNAIDS, and had contributed a total of $23 million to its programmes since establishment of that organ in 1996, he said. Third, Japan decided at the second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II), that African countries and their development partners should strengthen cooperation in their fight against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Japan announced its readiness to provide approximately 90 billion yen in grants, over a five-year period starting in 1998 in such areas as education, health care, medical services, and the supply of safe and clean water, to Africa. It was his country’s intention to use those grants with particular emphasis on the fight against AIDS.

Dr. DAVID SATCHER, Surgeon-General of the United States, said that his country had learned much about HIV/AIDS through its partnerships with other countries. The United States had invested in science and come up with effective medicines to treat the condition. However, they were not the solution. The United States was committed to AIDS prevention through surveillance and monitoring treatment. It had also learned the importance of aggressive treatment of the epidemic. In the quest for a vaccine, the United States was also committed to research and was pleased to work with such partners as Thailand, Uganda and others. Such partnerships must be interdisciplinary, involving all sectors, including labour and private business.

GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said that in many countries AIDS overburdened already fragile State institutions and undermined traditional family support schemes. It added to the climate of despair and disarray that fuelled conflicts. AIDS took a heavy toll on the overall stability of societies, contributing to the deterioration of the social fabric. Although the reality in Africa might be harsher than elsewhere, the social, economic and political implications of AIDS were felt everywhere. Its spread was a global problem that must be addressed in a comprehensive manner.

“Our debate today seeks not to open the way for the Council to take over the tasks and responsibilities of other organs, programmes and organizations”, he said. “Its importance lies in raising worldwide awareness of the social and economic devastation wrought by AIDS and of the greater threat ahead if effective action is not taken.” The debate placed the problem of AIDS in Africa in the spotlight of international attention and stressed its implications far beyond health issues.

Based on its regional experience with technical cooperation groups on HIV/AIDS, in 1997 Brazil developed a similar cooperation scheme with the Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa. In 1999, experts from the Brazilian Ministry of Health had visited several other countries in southern Africa to identify cooperation projects that could be quickly set up. Brazilian policies, to cope with both the causes and consequences of AIDS, might provide a useful example to other countries that faced similar budgetary constraints. Brazil distributed free anti-HIV drugs to all patients, which helped to reduce hospitalizations. Strong public media campaigns had been a key in preventive strategy.

Education and dissemination of information concerning AIDS was the best way to halt the spread of the disease in Africa and throughout the world. It was essential that cooperation projects with African countries take into account the need to guarantee universal health coverage, including treatment for all AIDS patients. Given the high costs of AIDS treatments, much would depend on the generosity of donor countries.

LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said the international community should address the problem of AIDS in Africa with the full force of an international response. He suggested that the Security Council establish a mechanism for close cooperation and coordination with UNAIDS. To that end, the Security Council might wish to arrange regular open briefing sessions with the Executive Director of UNAIDS to keep Member States up-to-date on the aspects of the AIDS crisis in Africa that had peace and security implications.

He said the social, economic and political scale and dimensions of the AIDS epidemic in Africa called for a comprehensive and integrated approach that required not only the active participation, but also the close cooperation and coordination, of all the major stakeholders. To echo Vice-President Al Gore, independent initiatives to fight AIDS by the various actors must be more focused and coordinated in order to take maximum advantage of their synergy and success. It was, therefore, essential that the leading role of UNAIDS be reinforced with respect to those crucial factors, through a strengthened mandate, greater resources and enhanced coordinating authority for its Executive Director.

ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya), on behalf of the African Group at the United Nations, said that the continent needed more than pious hopes, eloquent speeches and good intentions to solve its problems. It needed tangible deeds. Africa knew what remedies were needed, but was incapable of attaining them, given the shortage of resources.

He said that, with the addition of HIV/AIDS to the Security Council’s agenda, the Council was faced with a major challenge. It would be unacceptable for Africa if today’s meeting was used merely for publicity without yielding results. It was hoped that a campaign against AIDS in Africa would be financed by: assessing contributions to Member States according to their economic level; and contributions by universities, research centres, companies, NGOs and individuals. The media must play its proper role in raising public awareness.

ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti) said that in the 1950s average life span in sub- Saharan Africa had been 44 years, a figure which had risen to 59 with improved living standards. Today, that figure was rapidly declining and could reach 45 years by the end of the decade, wiping out the gains of half a century. Yet, all the sub-Saharan countries combined had just $160 million to spend in confronting AIDS.

He said that Africa remained the global epicentre of the epidemic. However, certain other regions were catching up, in particular, the newly independent States of the former Soviet Union, as well as the East and Central European countries. AIDS could not be dismissed as an African problem, but was rather a global human tragedy.

Ironically, Africa could not rely on the wonder drugs that had cut mortality in rich countries, he said. Those drugs cost more that $20,000 per person a year, whereas poor countries that bore the brunt of AIDS could not afford more than $20 per person. The answer did not lie just in reducing treatment costs, but in providing the necessary health infrastructure, as well as in investing in the development of a cheap, easily delivered vaccine; however, that remained a long-term proposition.

JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said that throughout 1999 the international community, including the Council, had devoted increasing attention to strengthening peace and security, as well as promoting socio-economic development, in Africa. It was yet another recognition that global peace and security were interdependent and could not be ensured unless peace and prosperity prevailed on the African continent, as well. Durable peace and sustainable development in Africa would not be achieved without effectively fighting AIDS and protecting and preventing the entire population of the continent from the disease, which truly threatened the very basis of human security.

The scourge of the epidemic could only be addressed through the joint efforts of governments, NGOs, civil society and international organizations, he continued. One of the root causes of the rapid spread of the disease was directly connected to poverty. The broad programme of development assistance and poverty eradication for African countries must be linked with an intensive programme of assistance to promote health education and health care. He urged the international community to increase the resources available. He also suggested that preventive measures be supported by intensive research work to eliminate the disease.

Ms. AMTHILA, Minister of Health and Social Services of Namibia, said that the impression had been created that African governments were irresponsible and were sitting back and waiting for others to do their work for them. That was not the case. HIV/AIDS was a global problem and a matter to be solved through partnerships. Vaccines for treating opportunistic infections, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, should not be as expensive as drugs used to treat the AIDS virus. Education on HIV/AIDS was being introduced in school curricula.

MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said the rapid spread and devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS was numbing. As a result, life expectancies in Africa had plunged to the same low levels as in the 1960s. To address that complex and pervasive situation, the international community should undertake a sincere commitment to eradicate the scourge through a developmental approach. The health needs of Africa must be borne by international burden-sharing. “However, we are all aware of the difficult road ahead, as the financial and human resources needed to deal with this epidemic are woefully inadequate both at the national and international level”, he said.

What did show promise was the multi-sectoral approach of UNAIDS which was co-sponsored by many bodies of the United Nations and provided effective system- wide coordination. In that light, a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach backed by adequate resources was urgently needed. He urged that UNAIDS be further strengthened and adequately funded. The eradication of AIDS should be integrated into the global development process, as well as national development strategies.

Dr. PIOT, Executive Director of UNAIDS, responding to issues raised today, said follow-up would be made on six specific points. Based on the commitments that had grown out of the Secretary-General’s meeting of 6 December on the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa, agreement would be reached by May among African governments, donor governments, the United Nations system, NGOs and the private sector on a specific plan for major intensification and mobilization to address the epidemic in Africa.

In response to the Council President’s specific request and that of the United Kingdom, he said it would be ensured that there would be systematic coordination between the development of the Partnership and the Council.

He said "we will work with the Presidency of the Council in follow-up to this meeting to work through the details of how appropriate and regular follow- up with the Council should be implemented". At the request of the United Kingdom and France, he said clearinghouse efforts within the United Nations would be intensified to assure the flow of current information to all of the Member States on the international response. That would be reported to the Council within the month.

A specific plan and partnership for addressing HIV/AIDS in emergencies and in the uniformed services would also be put forward in two months, he continued. He also said that “we will be very pleased to follow up in writing to individual questions raised by Council members as requested”.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said it was imperative to find palliatives for the epidemic through integrated efforts by the international community. The required resources could only be contributed by the developed countries, which, while allocating a mere 0.23 per cent of their GDP for official development assistance, controlled 86 per cent of the world’s GDP, 82 per cent of exports, 68 per cent of investments and 74 per cent of telephones.

He renewed Cuba’s proposal to establish a collaboration project -– through UNAIDS, the WHO and other United Nations agencies and funds -– for sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Central America to confront AIDS, among other health problems, for which Cuba was ready to contribute medical personnel free of charge. Cuba also renewed its proposal to provide, free of charge, all the medical personnel required to launch an integrated and urgent health campaign in northern sub-Saharan Africa, he said. Cuba proposed that the United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, as well as the developed countries, provide the minimum indispensable resources, mainly medicine and medical equipment.

SERGIO VENTO (Italy) said that during the year 2000, in the framework of the International Partnership, Italy intended to implement a strategy of support for national efforts, based on the scientific knowledge and therapies developed in Italy, through research and related communication carried on by Italian institutions, academic bodies and specialized hospitals. The strategy would primarily focus on prevention -- through vaccinations and education campaigns in schools, workplaces and the media; epidemiological surveillance; effective treatment of sexually transmitted diseases; decreasing the rate of maternal transmission; assistance to orphans and families affected by HIV/AIDS; personnel training; and research support.

In pursuing those objectives, Italy would rely on an international scientific advisory committee, he said. The overall amount of Italy’s contribution would be approximately $20 million, which would be channelled through multilateral and bilateral programmes. “We owe it to African people affected by this scourge to deploy every means necessary to defeat the pandemic and transform a legacy of despair into an endowment of hope”, he said.

MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the South Pacific Forum, said that AIDS was a global problem that did not recognize international boundaries. It was, therefore, imperative that the international community make a concerted global effort to combat the disease around the world, but the scale of the problem in Africa made that region's needs unique.

The South Pacific Forum countries would continue to support all efforts for effective measures to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. The South Pacific region was about as distant from Africa as could be. As they faced awesome challenges, the Forum countries underlined their solidarity with their friends in the continent.

PETER KASANDA (Zambia) said AIDS was destroying the most productive sector of African populations -- technicians, teachers, factory workers, doctors -- all were victims. Virtually, no aspect of public and private life remained untouched. “In this new millennium, HIV/AIDS will constitute the key factor that will determine the pace and quality of our development, well being and survival”, he said. In Africa, the most important first step was political commitment. The political leaders in the continent must recognize the disease for what it was -- “a threat to our very survival as viable nations”.

Second, traditional or cultural practices that encouraged the spread of HIV/AIDS must be discontinued, he said. Third, the stigma associated with AIDS must be reduced. “We must embrace people living with AIDS and recognize them as equal members of society. The conspiracy of silence must be broken, and we must begin treating AIDS as any other disease that must be openly confronted.” AIDS education should form an essential part of the curricula in schools. Education not only removed the stigma on the AIDS condition, but also led to favourable and positive changes in behaviour patterns by groups most at risk.

The next stage in the fight against the AIDS pandemic was international support. International partnerships in research activity and treatment already in place must be strengthened, improved and better coordinated. In the end, however, it was the lack of financial resources that was proving the greatest obstacle to success in the war against AIDS. Increased development assistance from donors could include specific components for AIDS-related activities. Also, a comprehensive and lasting solution to the debt problem must be quickly found. Furthermore, Africa must have access to affordable drugs that prolong the lives of people with HIV, together with treatment for opportunistic infections that occurred in people with AIDS. Africa also needed access to drugs that prevented mother-to-child transmissions and those that dealt with dual infections such as HIV/tuberculosis.

SOTIRIOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said the AIDS epidemic was a serious threat to mankind and especially to Africa since, as it had been so grimly pointed out, it took more African lives each year than all the conflicts in that region combined. He expressed particular concern about the rising number of infected children and women. He expressed the hope that the dialogue being initiated in the Council would address not only the major scientific and medical challenges that remained, but also the socio-economic consequences in many countries. It was necessary, however, to go beyond discussion and pursue effective solutions and practical responses. Efforts to develop a vaccine with low costs and few side effects must be intensified.

Through the efforts of UNAIDS, many of the taboos and myths about HIV and AIDS had been dispelled, he continued. It was important that, on such a sensitive issue, people be provided with the necessary knowledge and health information -- which would act as the best preventive measure against the deadly disease. The international community should redouble its efforts in alleviating the suffering of millions of people on the continent, he said. Part of the savings realized from debt relief could be used for awareness campaigns about HIV/AIDS and for better infrastructure for assisting the victims of the disease.

ARTHUR MBANEFO (Nigeria) said that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa, a continent of more than 50 developing countries and toddling economies pinned down by huge external debt and lack of technically skilled human resources, deserved urgent national and international joint action. As a national priority, President Olusegun Obasanjo had assumed personal leadership of the campaign against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Policies were being reviewed to ensure a more favourable environment for HIV/AIDS control. Stakeholders were being mobilized in the response against the epidemic though the Expanded National Response to AIDS.

He said that Africa had been ravaged by intractable armed conflicts, disease and poverty. As if the devastating effects of those problems were not enough, HIV/AIDS had been added to Africa’s woes. The pandemic, as well as armed conflict, deserved no less attention in the Security Council than the use or threat of nuclear weaponry. Nigeria hoped that today’s meeting would mark the beginning of concrete action plans for addressing the epidemic as an urgent world problem. AIDS and armed conflict, with all their impact on Africa, should be accorded the status of an international security agenda item, falling within the competency of the Security Council.

PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said despite the fact that Australia's international development effort was primarily directed towards the Asia and Pacific region, Africa received a high proportion -– 25 per cent -– of her country's global HIV/AIDS expenditure. As a relatively small donor in Africa, Australia would continue to direct a significant proportion of its aid towards the pandemic and play a supporting role in that area. Her country had committed itself to spending $A 10 million over four years to help fight HIV/AIDS in Southern and Eastern Africa. Its programme for the pandemic in Africa targeted rural communities and the more vulnerable members of society.

In implementing that programme, she continued, Australia worked closely with the governments of African countries, multilateral agencies and local NGOs. Future bilateral projects would continue to seek to strengthen partner governments’ capacities to engage in long-term planning to address the socio- economic impact of the epidemic. Prevention strategies would have a particular focus on youth and mothers at risk of transmitting HIV to their children. For example, her country would fund a regional “optimal feeding practices” project to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission in southern Africa.

DURI MOHAMMED (Ethiopia) said that the epidemic undermined efforts to build economies and frustrated hopes and aspirations for a decent life. Above all, it deprived children of their parents, men and women of the ability to care for their families and countries of the enterprise and ingenuity of a whole generation. The responsibility for finding solutions required a comprehensive approach at all levels. In order to fight AIDS effectively, partnership between government agencies, non-governmental agencies, the business community, private citizens, HIV-infected people and AIDS activist groups was essential.

He said that his country had made efforts to contain the epidemic’s spread through public-awareness campaigns, begun in the mid-1980s. Currently, in order to mobilize all sectors of society, the Federal Government of Ethiopia was focusing on a comprehensive programme and was in the process of establishing a national council to monitor its implementation. To bring about the desired results, those efforts required international support and assistance. That was also true of all the other affected African countries.

ILEKA ATOKI (Democratic Republic of Congo) said the epidemic in sub- Saharan Africa was now undergoing its greatest spread. His country had previously been in the forefront of the fight against AIDS, receiving bilateral and multilateral assistance to fight the epidemic. In 1991, the country had undergone widespread pillaging which had halted the anti-AIDS campaign. In 1994, the Democratic Republic had been the unwilling host of millions of refugees from neighbouring Rwanda, who had exacerbated the AIDS crisis and caused widespread environmental degradation.

He said that his country was currently the victim of aggression by the armed forces of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The conflict had witnessed an increase in a practice by which the Ugandan military sent into the field seropositive soldiers who raped women and girls in the occupied areas, causing HIV infection to increase exponentially. However, by the end of last year, malaria had remained the principal cause of death, closely followed by deaths resulting directly from the war and those caused by AIDS.

IBRA DEGUÈNE KA (Senegal) said that a resolution had been adopted at the 1992 OAU Summit in Dakar, recognizing AIDS as a real threat to the continent's future and committing African States to exert all means possible to limit the spread and impact of the scourge. Senegal had been engaged very early in a broad, multisectoral and multidisciplinary response to establish a national programme to combat the epidemic.

On the health level, he said, real preventive strategies had been realized following the creation of the national committee to combat AIDS. It was in Senegal that researchers had first revealed the existence of HIV Type 2. In 1997, more than 130,000 manuals devoted to information, education and communication about the disease had been distributed in public and private learning institutions.

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For information media. Not an official record.