January 10, 2000
Gore to Preside at Security Council Session on AIDS Crisis
Issue in Depth: The AIDS Epidemic
Join a Discussion on The AIDS Epidemic
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
ASHINGTON, Jan. 9 -- For the first time, the United Nations Security Council will convene on Monday to
take up a health issue -- the spread
of AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan
Africa, where the United Nations
calls it "the worst infectious disease
catastrophe since the bubonic
In an election-year bonus for Vice
President Al Gore, the Clinton administration has designated him to
preside over the session, where he
plans to announce that the administration is seeking $100 million from
Congress in next year's budget to
combat AIDS abroad. Most of it
would go to sub-Saharan Africa,
where, American officials say, 10
people are infected with the virus
every minute. A portion of the money
would go to India, which is expected
to become the crisis's next epicenter.
The money would go toward education and prevention programs,
home care, testing, blood screening
and care for the millions of children
orphaned by AIDS.
One focal point would be increasing money for a relatively inexpensive drug that can help block transmission of the virus from pregnant
women to their children. The United
States now supplies $3 million worth
of such drugs overseas. The Administration wants to triple that amount,
although the children who are saved
usually become orphans because the
treatment does not save the mothers.
In opening the session, Mr. Gore
plans to say that the human immuno-deficiency virus, which leads to
AIDS, has grown beyond a health
epidemic to become a threat to global security and stability.
"There can be no doubt that
H.I.V./AIDS is a security threat," his
draft remarks say.
Mr. Gore's remarks note that experts predict that more people will
die of AIDS in the next decade than
have died in all the wars of the 20th
century. "For the nations of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS has crossed
beyond the borders of a humanitarian crisis to become a security crisis," the remarks say, "because it
threatens not just the citizens of
those nations -- it threatens the very
institutions that define and defend
those nations" an apparent reference to its major impact on business
and professional people.
Mr. Gore is also to announce that
the administration is seeking $50
million for vaccines against other
diseases that are ravaging poor
countries. And he plans to call for
more involvement by foundations,
private corporations and other countries to help provide basic health
care in the developing world. Only 2
percent of all global public and private biomedical research is devoted
to the diseases that are the major
killers in the developing world.
Officials estimate that vaccines
that exist for some of these diseases,
including hepatitis B, influenza and
yellow fever, already save about
three million lives a year and that
the additional money could save four
million more. The idea, officials said,
is to establish a health network so
that if an AIDS vaccine is ever available, it can reach those who need it.
Mr. Gore is overseeing the security council meeting in his capacity as
vice president, but his presence is
not without its political component.
Mr. Gore and his sole rival for the
Democratic presidential nomination,
former Senator Bill Bradley, have
both been courting the gay vote,
which makes up more than 9 percent
of the primary electorate in the important states of New York and California.
AIDS transmission in Africa has
been primarily heterosexual, while
in the United States it has disproportionately affected gay men and,
more recently, members of minority
groups. So the chance for Mr. Gore to
preside at an international forum to
emphasize the vast global consequences of the disease could help him
secure his standing among gay and
African-American voters, two heavily influential voting groups in the
There is another political element
to Mr. Gore's visit to the United
Nations. The man who made Mr.
Gore's appearance possible was
Richard Holbrooke, the new chief
United States delegate. By providing
this opportunity to the candidate, Mr.
Holbrooke could increase his own
chances to be named secretary of
state in a Gore administration.
Since H.I.V. was identified in 1981,
some 50 million people around the
world have been infected with it and
16.3 million have died. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 80 percent of cases
are believed to be transmitted
through heterosexual activity, the virus has killed vast numbers of teachers, members of the military and
employees in business enterprises
from mining to banking, leading to
marked declines in gross domestic
production in many countries.
"Development in these countries
has been set back 40 years," said
Paul De Lay, chief of the H.I.V./
AIDS division at the United States
Agency for International Development.
Sandy Thurman, director of the
Administration's Office of National
Aids Policy, said that American corporations doing business overseas
are starting education programs for
their employees, and many local
businesses are now training two
workers for every one they need because one is likely to die of AIDS.
AIDS is the fourth-leading cause of
death in the world and the leading
cause of death in Africa. By the end
of 2010, it is expected to create 40
million orphans, many of whom wind
up on the streets, increasing their
nations' rates of crime, drug use and
prostitution and straining social
If Congress approves the money,
the United States would devote $342
million to combatting AIDS overseas, including $100 million it approved last year. By contrast, the
United States spends $800 million a
year on AIDS at home, where 40,000
new cases are diagnosed every year;
in Africa, 5.6 million new cases appear annually.
The draft of Mr. Gore's speech
cites the success of a few countries,
like Uganda, in reducing its AIDS
cases -- primarily through education
-- and calls for the world to discuss
AIDS more openly.
"We must discuss AIDS not in
whispers, in private meetings, in
tones of secrecy and shame, but right
here, in one of the great forums of the
world, loudly and boldly, with a sense
of urgency and concern and compassion," the draft reads. "Until we end
the stigma, we will never end the