The Global Threat of New and Reemerging Infectious Diseases: Reconciling U.S. National Security and Public Health Policy

By Jennifer Brower; Peter Chalk | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
AIDS IN SOUTH AFRICA: EXTENT, IMPLICATIONS,
AND RESPONSE

The contemporary HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa represents an acute example of how infectious diseases can undermine national resilience and regional stability. Roughly 25 percent of the country's adult population is currently infected with HIV, which makes South Africa one of the most severely affected AIDS states in the world. The consequences of the disease have been as marked as they have been pervasive, negatively impacting on virtually all levels of the country's security—broadly defined—as well as significant aspects of Pretoria's frontline neighbors. As James Wolfenson, president of the World Bank, has remarked:

Many of us used to think of AIDS as a health issue. We were wrong. AIDS can no longer be confined to the health or social sector portfolios. Across Africa, AIDS is turning back the clock on development. Nothing we have seen is a greater challenge to the peace and stabilities of African societies than the epidemic of AIDS…. We face a major development crisis, and more than that a security crisis. For without economic and social hope we will not have peace, and AIDS surely undermines both.1

This chapter examines the current AIDS crisis in South Africa and assesses its impact on the country's internal human and wider geo-

____________________
1
James Wolfenson, speech given to the UN Security Council meeting on HIV/AIDS in Africa, January 10, 2000, cited in Greg Mills, “AIDS and the South African Military: Timeworn Cliché or Timebomb?” HIV/AIDS: A Threat to the African Renaissance, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Occasional Papers, June 2000, p. 67.

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