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AIDS as a Security Issue

HIV/AIDS has overtime come to pass as one of the major causes of death known to mankind over the decades. The impact of HIV/AIDS has been a topic of discussion as to how it is a threat to the national security. 

AIDS had been previously known to be a health issue and not a security threat. However, in the current world, tables have turned and it is now an extreme serious case.It has been given a red light and deemed to be a risk to wiping out the humanity from the world. In this essay, I will discuss how HIV/AIDS poses a risk to the various forms of security and the humanity as a whole. I will also point out the steps taken to control the situation and what more can be done to suppress these effects.

In places where HIV/AIDS has gone up to epidemic levels, the disease destroys every bit of what makes up a state. These include individuals and their families as well as the economic and political institutions within the society. The effect of this epidemic is stretched to a wide margin such that it goes on to affect the institutions that offer protection to the state; the military and the police forces. Day by day the impact and full effect of AIDS is being felt on the international and national levels.

With so many people losing their lives to this disease due to conflicts and war, this epidemic is not only claiming lives but bringing down the governing structures that always cater for human security. In 1994, a new concept of the human security was introduced by the UNDP human development report. This concept equated security with people rather than the places where they lived, with development rather than armoury in their possession. The UNAIDS Executive Director stated that, “there is a world of difference between the root causes of terrorism and the impact of HIV on security…as a global issue therefore, we must pay attention to AIDS as a threat to human security, and redouble our efforts against the epidemic and its impact”. In January 2000, the UN Security Council made history by debating for the very first time, a health issue. By doing this, it had recognized the security threats that HIV/AIDS posed. The council highlighted the threat that this epidemic posed to the international security, especially when it came to conflicts and peace keeping (Powell, 2003).

Many advances have been made to allow greater focus on how to curb this pandemic. The recent attempts to state HIV/AIDS as a security issue on the international levels are deemed to have bio political previews which raise some concerns. If the people concerned with bringing out the HIV epidemic as a security issue are not keen, this bio political dimensions that are emerging could very bring up the same dangers that were associated with racism, initiating conflicts and instability. Michael Foucault came up with this bio political concept in his researches which were done in the 1970’s (Elbe, 2010 pg 404). In his work, he argues that the HIV/AIDS disease was an issue that affected the political and economical status of a nation and it had to be resolved immediately before its wrath spreads deeper. This disease was of major concern to Foucault because; it was the responsibility of the European bio politics to curb this disease as one of their goals is to ensure the health of the majority in the population. The securitization of HIV/AIDS is bio political as a result of the way in which the governments internationally are trying to control the health of the populations (Elbe, 2010 pg 404). This has brought about a common purpose in international states as the health issue has become a priority for all as HIV/AIDS is being linked to the international security. The securitization of HIV/AID has as a result been broadened with awareness being raised and giving strength to Foucault’s idea that bio power is never the responsibility of a single party but a collective effort that is decentralized. Foucault states that “Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere”. With the coming together of the various government bodies to take up on this security threat, HIV/AIDS epidemic will slowly be put under control (Elbe, 2010 pg 405).

HIV/AIDS and security received a deep intellectual profile which saw it change the response of the world to the pandemic disease. The debate by the Security Council was preceded by an assessment by the US National Intelligence, this sought to look at the threat that the HIV/AIDS posed to the security. Their report was detailed and it raised an alarm on the issue. The report stated that “the persistent infectious disease burden is likely to aggravate, and in some cases, may even provoke economic decay, social fragmentation and political destabilization of the hardest hit countries in the developing world” (Waal, 2010). The forecasts of this analysis sent a chill throughout the world. Two reports in the past years show how the alarm on HIV/AIDS security issue is being taken seriously. In the last months of the Bush administration in the United States, the National Agency published a document on this issue. This sought to emphasize on economic costs and listed the medical diplomacy in the priorities of the US leadership. Another issue that was raised was the need to build a better mode of dialogue between the civilians and the military policy makers. This was especially with concern to the testing and accountability for prevention of the disease (Waal, 2010).

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has over a long time received different approaches from the civilian and military sectors. The AIDS activists, despite facing social stigma and denials from the government, came up with a new model for the health governance.

This model focused on the rights of each person on their own and civic mobilization. It was successful as it promoted a worldwide movement for this epidemic and as a result, the approaches that were there traditionally were transformed to public health in a majority of the countries, the military sectors responded quicker than the governments. They did so in a more traditional way too. These military sectors saw HIV/AIDS as a threat to how they operate as it would hinder their capabilities. No arguments about the control measures were raised. These included mandatory testing for each soldier and exclusion of those who tested positive. In some cases, the unit commanders were to take up the responsibility in ensuring that the HIV rates within their troops were at the lowest rates. In Ethiopia, a “command centered approach” to the prevention of this disease included the incentives and disincentives for the results of the test into the primary functioning of the army (Waal, 2010). The units or troops which remained free of this disease were to be rewarded by being given promotions, better missions, and bonuses. Such modes of embracing the prevention of the virus were important in emphasizing individual responsibility. However, this intellect mode of approach to prevention of the virus was not the case everywhere. Some of the military camps took on a poor way of handling this threat.

There has been a discriminative approach to the people living with the HIV/AIDS disease. Much as it is deemed to pose a security threat to the nations, this should not be an excuse for the oppression for those who are suffering from it. A notable case study example of this happened in South Africa. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was accused of conducting employment into the military forces in a discriminatory way. They did their employment on the basis of the HIV status of the individual. This case was brought forward by one sergeant Sipho Mthenthwa. Mthenthwa underwent a HIV test before deployment on a mission to Darfur in Southern Sudan (Waal, 2010). After testing positive, he was dismissed off the troop that was to go for the peace mission. This argument on the testing and the exclusion of soldiers from the troops has become an issue of concern to the way people living with HIV/AIDS are treated in the society. The saddest part is that none of the two parties are willing to listen to the other. The SANDF could have argued that it is their policy to take up such actions on their soldiers in order to encourage self discipline in maintaining ones health. The silence that is there on this issue is generated by the contradicting stands of the UN on this matter. Much as the UN has got its own stand, it needs to find troops in countries willing to take part in the peacekeeping missions. The UN has got its own stand concerning human rights, however, it has got to respect the policies of the countries that contribute this troops and this at most always includes testing and exclusion. This double standards by the UN can be understood to be tolerable but still, is not acceptable. Victims of the HIV epidemic also need to be given equal rights as any other person (Waal, 2010).

Human security should be able to provide safety from violent threats. This should also apply for the non violent threats. This is according to the UNDP report in 2004. The human security is a different way of seeing the world. It points to reference, rather than focusing exclusively on the security or territory of governments. Like other security concepts – national security, economic security, and food security – it is about protection. Human security involves taking measures that will help lower the threats. This includes reducing weakness to permeability and reduction of risks. It also involves taking up actions where prevention failed (Hubert, 1999). Pieter Fourier (Harker, 2001) adds that the consequences are serious. In as much as HIV/AIDS is not the most common type of threat, it has got its effects on a wide scale. The fact that it is non-violent only to disguises its full effect.

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HIV/AIDS overwhelms health services and shortened lives. It has destabilized governments and disrupted societies. This effect is sometimes to the extent that major conflicts emerge. The scope of the virus is more than it had earlier been thought to be.

The UN Security Council meeting in January 2000 was the first platform where there was discussion about the impact of HIVAIDS on the state of security and peace in Africa. HIV/AIDS has become an even more alarming threat to humanity than the war that takes place in some countries of Africa. At this meeting, the UN secretary General Kofi Annan was keen to point out that,” the impact of AIDS in Africa was no less destructive than that of warfare itself”. AIDS is causing social and economic crisis it has overcome the social and health services of the world. It has led to the number of orphans rising as well as the affecting the health of workers and teachers. These effects have in turn threatened political stability. These disasters are creating even more conflict. As a result, the conflict always turns out to elevate the widespread of this disease even more. James Wolfensohn, the World Bank President concurred with these stating that the effect of Aids was that the world faced a war that was much greater than the war itself. With no economic and social hope, there could not be peace. AIDS has undermined both. Not only has it threatened stability, but low levels of peace have also increased the pandemic (Ulf Kristofferson, 2000). This epidemic has in the recent years escalated from being just a health concern to becoming a security issue. Its spread and impact is at all levels of society. This is causing important consequences for human security. The widespread of this epidemic has been brought to the light finally. It has led the United Nations Security Council to make a historical move. It has adopted resolution 1308. This resolution not only addresses a health issue, but specifically relates the spread of HIV/AIDS to the controlling of peace and security in the world. This pandemic if not controlled, may cause a risk to security. The pandemic is also brought about by conditions of violence and instability. These increase the risk of exposure to the disease in the large maneuvers by people.

According to the AIDS Epidemic Update by UNAIDS/WHO in 2000, 25million out of the 36 million people living with HIV/AIDS were from sub-Saharan Africa. The population living in this place is very small which mans that the larger population is infected.

80 percent of the total global deaths due to HIV/AIDS were from this region. It is further believed that in the absence of an immediate medical intervention, the whole population of sub-Saharan region will be non-existent by 2010. One in every five people in Southern Africa is living with HIV/AIDS. The prevalence rate reduces the expectancy rate by half (Harker, 2001, p 226). In 2000, a National Intelligence Estimate report was released by the US Central Intelligence Agency. This stated that new and emerging diseases like AIDS will pose a rising global health threat. This will complicate US and global security over the next 20 years. These diseases will endanger US citizens. They will threaten US armed forces deployed overseas. HIV/AIDS was also identified as a threat to all security sectors. These include personal, economic, national and international. As a result, Washington gives $500 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria while the other member countries of the G8 collectively give US $1 billion. This is the level of cooperation that is needed to manage this pandemic. Canada has especially taken major steps to address the security issues posed this epidemic.

In a John Hacker report published by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 2001, Canada also recognized that its troops are exposed to infection while out in the field. This is due to the fact that they work and interact with the local police, military and peacekeepers from highly infected countries. The efficiency of these security forces in Africa is compromised due to their infection. In 2000, Ambassador Michael Duval was Canada’s Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council. At the conference, he stated that “the AIDS pandemic represents a formidable threat to the development of government institutions, economic growth, political stability and human security in many parts of the world” (Nolen 2003).

With the definition of national and human security in mind, it is evident that HIV/AIDS has no potential to cause an outbreak of war on its own. The effect of this disease on the larger population is what has destabilized and led to what Williams (2003, p. 512) and Buzan (1991) refer to as a multisectoral and hierarchical classification of security; personal, economic, communal, national and finally international insecurity (Lamboray, 2002). Security is now viewed as being more than just military combat (Buzan et al, 1998, p.21). Stefan (2006, p.276) also agrees to the securitization of HIV/AIDS. This is because it would encourage positive response by highlighting the threat it poses. This will allow policy makers, activists, and scholars to begin showing the links relating HIV/AIDS and security. This would be in ways that at least reduce some of these dangers. The world’s super powers need to come up with a way to prevent this case of disease and insecurity from spiraling out of control.

HIV/AIDS has become a source of conflict within the society. The burden of caring for the infected and stigmatization of the infected and their families also takes a toll on the fiber that binds together the society, leading to conflicts and families separating. These conflicts have resulted in a number of death occurrences ion the communities. When a community faces death of its members in large numbers, its integrity and continuity is compromised. Their social position is also at risk and may lead to internal conflicts. The younger population will as a result face a bleak future devoid of adult role models. When young children are orphaned by this epidemic, they devise a way of fending for themselves regardless of the danger involved. Some may get recruited as child soldiers by militia and other organized gangs (Pharaoh and Schonteich, 2003, p. 9). More people will move to other places in search of a better life, increasing refugee traffic to other countries. Increase of refugees in other countries will contribute to elevations of national security threats.

Issues of gender inequalities further aggravate the problem. As Kristofferson (2000) explains, women who are left behind to head their households in countries like Uganda face adversities especially when they have no income source or when they are rendered landless by the relatives of the husband. In order to continue providing for the family, they may eventually have to indulge in commercial sex. While it will earn these women some cash, they are exposed to high risks of infection and re-infection (IRIN 2002). An infected mother is an affected household. As probably the sole breadwinner, she will fall sick leading to a decrease in the family income. The girl child will again be affected as she will drop out of school in order to take care of the sick in the family. This is a reverse in the basic support process; the young end up taking care of the sick and elderly instead of vice versa (Kristofferson, 2000).

In a February 2001 special report, Kofi Annan warned that AIDS changes families and the way communities co-habit. This affects food security. It also destabilizes traditional support systems. By eradicating the knowledge in the society it destroys social capital. It weakens national institutions by being an obstacle in the development of both public and private sectors. In the end it impairs economic growth and the epidemic has an impact on investment. It also affects trade and national security. This leads to more widespread and extreme poverty. FAO foresees a bleak future for the manpower in ten of the heavily affected countries of Southern Africa (n.a 2001)

A report by FAO cautions that since other agricultural processes after farming such as packaging and storage require manpower, they will not function fully as expected due to high HIV/AIDS infection rate. The report’s parting statement is that HIV/AIDS does not merely affect certain agriculture and rural development sub-sectoral components, leaving others unaffected. If one component of the system is affected, it is likely that others will also be affected, either directly or indirectly. The economy of a country is very important when it comes to security maintenance. As a result of HIV affecting the production of this agricultural sector, it directly poses a threat to the economy and as a result to the security sector as well. HIV/AIDS is increasingly becoming a national threat as it poses a risk of throwing the countries into agricultural crisis and hunger. To further worsen the situation, potential foreign investors shy away from these countries. Those who have already invested in these countries begin to pull out and take a run. CSIS reveals that “a study conducted by a British House of Commons Committee suggested that companies are increasingly reluctant to invest in Africa because they are concerned that HIV/AIDS will cause instability in the workforce and the markets. The World Bank expects that when the HIV levels are more than 5%, economic growth will drop. When infection rates go up to 10% economic growth will come to a stop (2002). The result will be uncontrolled poverty and unemployment leading to a humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition and lack of cash for food will render this population susceptible to disease. They may be tempted to engage in crime to survive. These families will also be exposed to various forms of abuse like sexual, physical and emotional. Desperation and frustration further adds more problems to the already existent one of HIV/AIDS. As UNICEF points out, the capacity and resources are extended to breaking point. Thus, those providing the necessary care in many cases are often elderly. They might have themselves relied financially and physically on the support of the very son or daughter who has died. Orphans suffer very much in such situations. They become street children who engage in petty theft like mugging and pick pocketing. Some are raped or turned into prostitutes.

At the communal level, Lamboray (2002) notes that the police are considered as the role models to the larger community. An infected police force is, however, unable to productively and effectively discharge its duties of controlling crime in the community and peacefully resolving any social tensions. The general public feels unsure about their protection as the police who are supposed to govern and protect them are the very ones who need medical attention and may require care at some point.

Teachers, healthcare providers and civil servants are also important in steering the economic and social growth of a community.

When this educated group is infected and end up dead or unable to work, the social and governance structure is weakened. The rest of the community faces regression to illiteracy and ultimately, a stagnant economy. As stated by the International Crisis Group, every successful society needs institutions that bind its members together. These institutions are responsible for making and enforcing laws for resolving conflicts. These institutions help educate their children for a better future.

After discussions and research on this topic, it is can be cocnluded that the relations between HIV/AIDS and security are separated by a very thin line and that the issue needs to be addressed with a lot of concern. The question on everyone’s mind with regard to this issue is “How can the spread of HIV/AIDS be minimized?.” Handling of this epidemic has proved to be a hard task. In as much as the various governments strive to cut down and prevent the spread of this disease, it continues to spread with millions of infections each year. However, with the backing of the UN on this matter, most of the nations in the world are becoming optimistic that it can be brought under control. Measures are being put in place by various institutions to help curb this disease and prevent it from spreading. The military sectors are leading in example for the security forces as they continue to advocate for testing and talks about prevention of this disease. In the various institutions, education about how to live with people suffering from this disease is also being encouraged.HIV/AIDS infected people are still part of the society and are supposed to be treated without any form of discrimination. Steps are being taken to ensure that the oppression cases that were there in the past do not recur again and that there is equal treatment of everyone in the society. In taking these measures of curbing the disease, the threat that HIV poses to the security is slowly being contained. The global awareness on the importance of the prevention of the spread of the virus is being received in a very positive way, and the whole world has decided to soldier on behind this initiative. With the world leaders tackling this issue as part of their agenda in their international and national meetings, it is a clear indication that we are headed in the right direction in fighting this epidemic.

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