Hiv/ Aids as a Global Security Threat: an Overview

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  • Topic: HIV, Pandemic, Military
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  • Published : January 19, 2011
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HIV/ AIDS AS A GLOBAL SECURITY THREAT: An Overview
By Kshitij Bansal

HIV/AIDS no doubt is one of the most researched and written upon socio-medical issues today. But least attention has been paid towards other socio-political implications of this global pandemic. One of these neglected areas of concern is the global security threat posed by HIV. This article briefly discusses this dimension by taking into account the causes and effects and thereby recommends the suggestive measures. Implications for the military forces and demographic compulsions have been discussed. More light needs to be thrown on the issue but this article is an attempt to initiate the discussion. It is no overstatement that AIDS is “…the greatest disease challenge that humanity has faced in modern history.”[1] More people will die from the disease than any other disease outbreaks in human history, including the global influenza epidemic of 1918-19 and the Bubonic Plague in the 1300s. Over 22 million worldwide have already been killed and it is projected that, at current rates, another 200 million more will be infected just by 2011. [2] National security is traditionally defined as the protection of a state's territory, population, and interests against external threats. While recognizing the humanitarian dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, national security analysis rely on the human impacts of the disease to be large enough to affect the military, political, and economic interests of a state.

Following are the main arguments linking HIV/ AIDS and security in national and international contexts: 1.The primary connection between AIDS and security appears to come from the unique linkage between the disease and the institution of the military. Continual studies find that the average infection rates of soldiers are significantly higher than equivalent age groups in the regular civilian population. During periods of war, this figure often soars to as much as 50 times higher. The impact that high HIV prevalence will have on the strategic capabilities of militaries is complex.

The loss of highly trained, professional soldiers to AIDS will have a major impact on affected armed forces. Trained soldiers are difficult and expensive to replace, and their absence interrupts the training of younger recruits. Armed forces that rely wholly or partially on conscripts face a decreasing pool of healthy recruits as HIV/AIDS continues to spread. For example, Russia's HIV epidemic is already exacerbating an existing shortage of healthy individuals available for military service. It is also argued that armed forces with high HIV prevalence may incur mounting costs to treat soldiers with antiretroviral drugs, leading the military to seek greater proportions of public expenditure while rendering them less able to protect national and international interests [3]

2.Concern about peacekeepers spreading HIV/AIDS while on missions brought the pandemic to the attention of the UNSC in 2000. In addition to peacekeepers directly spreading HIV, high rates of HIV among the militaries in troop-contributing countries may make it more difficult to staff peacekeeping missions [3]. High rates of HIV in the South African and Nigerian militaries in particular, which are major contributors of peacekeeping troops, may imperil African-led responses to regional crises such as that in Sudan. Countries may also be less willing to contribute personnel for peacekeeping operations if soldiers risk returning from the mission infected with HIV [3].

3.Consequently, one of the many implications stemming from high AIDS prevalence in the military is that forces will likely be less able and less willing to participate in peacekeeping operations. In fact, around 40% of present UN peacekeepers come from countries nearing high infection rates and potential ensuing collapse. [4] As the disease’s force is ultimately felt internally, these militaries will be less likely to...
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