January 11, 2000
Gore Presides Over Security Council Debate on AIDS
Issue in Depth: The AIDS Epidemic
Join a Discussion on The AIDS Epidemic
By BARBARA CROSSETTE
NITED NATIONS, Jan. 10 --
Vice President Al Gore, presiding
over an unusual Security Council session called to debate the AIDS crisis
in Africa, said today that the United
States would add $150 million to next
year's budget to help combat that
and other infectious diseases in the
Mr. Gore appeared during a primary campaign in which his opponent, Bill Bradley, has consistently
backed more cooperation with the
United Nations. The occasion kicked
off a month of a focus on Africa in the
council organized by Richard C. Holbrooke, the American representative
to the United Nations and the council
president for January.
The pledge of more money is still
subject to approval by Congress. And
it made less news here than Mr.
Gore's presence and than the recognition by the council that the AIDS
epidemic in Africa had reached the
level of an international security issue, because that problem could decimate the economic, political and
military establishments in many
The epidemic "is being more effective than war in destabilizing
countries," said the president of the
World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn.
"We're rolling back some of the
gains that have been made in Africa
over the past 40 years. We gained,
under African leadership, more than
20 years in life expectancy. In many
countries, this will be lost by the year
Peter Piot, executive director of
Unaids, a consortium of United Nations agencies that has been helping
many programs in Africa for years,
told the council that he estimated
that his program needed $1 billion to
$3 billion a year to fight AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
AIDS in Africa, several speakers
noted, now kills more people than
wars -- and more wars are being
fought there than on any other continent. Furthermore, soldiers and international peacekeepers are in the
forefront of those spreading the human immunodeficiency virus, which
Across one society after another,
the effects are devastating, a lineup
of international experts testified.
Around the world, more than 33 million people have AIDS or the virus
that causes it. At least 70 percent are
"Just imagine that in Botswana,
Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe 25
percent of the people between 15 and
19 years of age are H.I.V. positive,"
Mr. Wolfensohn said. "We're losing
teachers faster than we can replace
them. We're losing judges, lawyers,
government officials, persons in the
In the face of the crisis, a number
of African leaders have refused to
discuss the problem openly. The administrator of the United Nations
Development Program, Mark Malloch Brown, said today: "In too
many places, individual ostracism,
and hence denial, still prevail, confounding good tracking and management of the disease. Change must
begin by confronting the region's
troubled inheritance -- extensive migrant labor, social norms and gender
inequality making it hard for women
and girls to deny men sex, leading to
H.I.V. incidence rates among girls
three or four times higher than
Secretary General Kofi Annan
said, "The first battle to be won in
the war against AIDS is the battle to
smash the wall of silence and stigma
Mr. Gore, who also spoke about the
need to "destigmatize" AIDS, said
the next Clinton administration
budget would also include money for
the Pentagon to share its expertise
on controlling AIDS in the military
with African nations.
The Ugandan Health Minister, Dr.
Crispus Kiyonga, told the council
that one program that had made his
country the continent's leader in the
fight against AIDS was in the armed
forces. Dr. Kiyonga said that Uganda had also established campaigns in
educational institutions and 4,000 private organizations and that it was
using songs, billboards and radio and
television to spread information.
By 1995, Dr. Kiyonga said, surveys
found that many more people than
earlier were using condoms and reducing sexual partners, often "sticking to one."
Not all council members approved
the unusual debate, in which more
than 24 diplomats spoke. China and
Russia refused to take part. Both
have fought to keep social issues out
of the council, fearing the introduction of human rights cases, diplomats say.
Mr. Holbrooke said the Russians
and Chinese agreed to the debate
only on the promise that it would not
set a precedent.
For many at the United Nations, it
was the "old Al Gore" who spoke
today, an American whom they remember as once deeply involved in
international issues. As a senator in
1992, he led a Congressional delegation to the Earth Summit in Rio de
Janeiro. In 1994, he went to Cairo for
an international conference on population and development.
But in the second Clinton administration, as the White House and State
Department have become increasingly skittish about involvement in
international organizations in the
face of Republican hostility in Congress, Mr. Gore, as well as Hillary
Rodham Clinton, have been seen
much less frequently at public United Nations events.
American diplomats said Mr. Gore
was the first American vice president to preside over the Security
Council. But he was not the first vice
president of the United States to address the council. Vice President
George Bush spoke for the United
States in July 1988, when Iran tried to
obtain a condemnation of the United
States after an American warship
had shot down an Iranian passenger
plane over the Persian Gulf.
That year was also a presidential
election year, and Mr. Bush was the
most likely Republican candidate.
His advisers later acknowledged
that Mr. Bush, who had been the
American representative at the United Nations in the early 1970's, had
been encouraged to go to the council
to demonstrate his presidential qualities in an international arena.
Today, Jeffrey Laurenti, executive
director of policy studies at the United Nations Association of the United
States, a support and research
group, contended that the same
thinking might have applied to Mr.
"This was sold to the Gore office
as a political stop, a campaign stop
that outshines what he might do on a
bus in New Hampshire or Iowa,"
said Mr. Laurenti, who has worked
on Democratic campaigns in New
Jersey. "It was sold not as an important step for international policy, but
as a way to showcase the vice president as an international leader."
Mr. Gore's speech, Mr. Laurenti
said, had something to appeal to a
gay audience, to blacks and to women.
But Mr. Holbrooke, asked by reporters whether Mr. Gore's appearance, lasting less than an hour, had
more to do with politics than Africa,
called the question "a truly outrageous accusation."
"He said that all his domestic advisers opposed this," Mr. Holbrooke
Mr. Annan saw the political possibilities, however. In the only light
moment of the daylong debate on a
grim subject, he expressed gratitude
to Mr. Gore for introducing him effusively. "Thank you Mr. Vice President, or perhaps I should say Mr.
President," Mr. Annan said, leaving
a long pause before adding "of the
Security Council." By council standards, it brought down the house.