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CIA Director Warns HIV/AIDS Is Security Risk - 2003-02-11

In Washington Tuesday, the head of the CIA, George Tenet, testified before Congress about threats to US security. Besides talking about the situation regarding al Qaeda, Iraq and North Korea, the intelligence chief warned of the dangers posed by HIV / AIDS and expressed concerned about the situation in Ivory Coast.

As for the HIV / AIDS pandemic, Mr. Tenet says the disease has national security implications beyond health implications. He says, “This pandemic continues unabated. And last year more than three million people died of AIDS-related causes. More than forty million people are infected and southern Africa has the greatest concentration of these cases. That said, the intelligence community recently projected that by 2010, we may see as many as one hundred million HIV-infected people outside of Africa.”

The CIA director says, “China will have about fifteen million cases, in India, twenty to twenty five million cases, and cases are on the rise in Russia as well.” Mr. Tenet warns that the national security dimension of the virus is plain. It can undermine economic growth, exacerbate social tensions, diminish military preparedness, create huge social welfare costs, and further weaken beleaguered states. And the virus respects no border.

“As for unrest on the continent, he says, “Sub-Saharan Africa’s chronic instability will demand US attention. Africa’s lack of democratic institutionalization, combined with its pervasive ethnic rifts and deep corruption, render most of the forty-eight countries vulnerable to crises that can be costly in human lives and economic growth.” He says, “Ivory Coast is collapsing” and warns, “its crash will be felt throughout the region, where neighboring economics are at risk from the falloff in trade and from refugees fleeing violence.” English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua monitored Mr. Tenet’s remarks and filed a report.