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Clinton Administration Declares AIDS a New Threat to National Security and Global StabilityAired April 30, 2000 - 4:06 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, for the first time ever, the Clinton administration is declaring AIDS a new threat to national security and global stability. The National Security Council advisers will lead a review of U.S. policy to fight AIDS and will look at the disease's worldwide effects.
Joining us now to discuss this new initiative is Sandy Thurman, she is the co-chair of the president's national AIDS policy.
Miss Thurman, thanks for being with us.
SANDRA THURMAN, CO-CHAIR, NATIONAL AIDS POLICY: Thank you.
NELSON: First question is why now and why is AIDS a threat to U.S. security?
THURMAN: Well, certainly now that we have 40 -- 34 million people infected worldwide -- we have in Africa alone 5,500 men, women and children dying of AIDS each and every day -- we are beginning to understand that this epidemic not only has health implications but has implications as a fundamental development issue, an economic issue, and a stability and security issue.
NELSON: Why stability and security? I mean, this kind of declaration is usually associated with a national defense emergency.
THURMAN: Well, it is, but when we look at the impact that AIDS is having on developing nations around the world; when we see countries that have 20 percent of their population of adults infected with HIV who are going to die of HIV; when we see all the indicators that we've used in the recent past to mark the progress of nations declining, like infant mortality and child mortality and life expectancy, which are all being dramatically reduced as a result of this epidemic, we understand that we have to respond in ways that are different than we have in the past.
NELSON: So let's ask how this declaration will help reign in the disease in India, for example, or Africa?
THURMAN: Sure. Well, let's take Africa for instance. The good news is that we have developed effective programs on the ground in Africa that allow us to stem the spread of HIV. What happens when we have the National Security Council involved in this epidemic is that it gives us the ability to bring those programs to scale.
With the logistical expertise that the National Security community brings, with the diplomatic expertise that is necessary to sort of pave the road for leaders around the world to respond to this epidemic, this gives us a whole new ability to respond to AIDS like we would respond to any other international threat.
NELSON: So does this mean that this country will begin sending out teams of experts to foreign countries?
THURMAN: Well, it does. I mean, we have already been doing that for the last 15 years of the epidemic. We've had United States teams working with teams on the ground around the world. What this helps us do is encourage leaders around the world to make this a priority by showing leadership. The U.S. has been the leader in the fight against AIDS internationally in the last two decades, but this allows us to really put the pressure on others to respond in kind.
NELSON: Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, suggests this is just election-year politics, he says there is no national security threat. So I ask you this question in light of what he said, why hasn't this been done for cancer or for heart disease, for example?
THURMAN: Well, we've never really seen an epidemic like HIV and AIDS. Clearly, the surgeon general has said over and over again that AIDS poses the greatest threat to mankind since the Bubonic Plague in the Middle Ages. And with no vaccine and no cure in sight, certainly in the next couple of decades we will have literally hundreds of millions of people dying of AIDS around the world.
The National Intelligence Council has clearly indicated to us that while Africa is at the center of the epidemic today, India will be the epicenter of the epidemic in 15 years, and we see a dramatic increase of AIDS in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. So we have an epidemic that is sweeping the globe.
We have no way to stop it in terms of science. We certainly don't have vaccines or cures that are available to people in the developing world, or here for that matter. So we have to respond to this because we have never seen a crisis like HIV and AIDS globally.
NELSON: All right, thanks for your insight, Sandy Thurman, the co-chair of the president's national AIDS policy, thanks for being with us.
THURMAN: Thank you.
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