AIDS and African militaries

At TPM Cafe, Anne-Marie Slaughter posts
a note from a former student working in South Africa on AIDS
Prevention. Estimates suggest 23% of the South African military is HIV+
and that 7 of 10 deaths in the military are AIDS-related. This may make
it much harder for African militaries, the South African military in
particular, to play a role in resolving local problems and supporting
peacekeeping operations. The hollowing out of the military in
AIDS-wracked countries has also been documented by Peter Singer. The posts from some readers project a sort of hopelessness,
particularly given South Africa’s leadership’s puzzling antagonism
towards recognizing both the existence of the disease and viable
treatment strategies.  While the scale of the tragedy is enormous, it
would be too easy to write off the entire continent as hopeless. It
would also be unseemly for a rich and generous nation like ours not to
even try.

The impact of the AIDS virus on African militaries is a very serious
problem. It is hard to tell if some of the reports of this overstate
the security implications because they think this is the only way to
get the outside world to care, as if appeals to international morality
will not induce rich donors to spend significant amounts of money. Are
we only be moved to act when we think it is in our national interest? I
think the evidence on HIV suggests the U.S. can be moved to care in the
absence of clear security incentives. We might think the recognition of
the problem of failed states moved President Bush to announce his
5-year, $15bn AIDS plan in his 2003 State of the Union address.
However, as a number of other analysts have demonstrated, Christian
conversatives, motivated by the affront to morality by a disease that
had claimed more than 20 million lives, brought President Bush and
other conservative Republican leaders on board. I recommend Chapter 14
in Greg Behrman’s book The Invisible People and Holly Burkhalter’s Foreign Affairs piece.

I’ll have more to say about a lecture I gave yesterday for World AIDS day.

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2 Responses to “AIDS and African militaries”

  1. Yes. Interest seems the only consistent motivator of real foreign policy action. I tend to be a combination of realist and constructivist (huh?), and most actors aren’t willing to act until there’s somethign in it for them. Take climate control — some smilar contours to epidemic, but no real national security threat. So it’s been hard to get significant action on it.

  2. Glad people are still caring about HIV/AIDS. I have AIDS from open heart surgery in the 80s, my wife has AIDS too, she contracted HIV from her nursing job. is a chat server for HIV/AIDS chats only, join us for the AIDS Day discussions 😉