He Fought AIDS by Convincing World It Was Security Threat

No modern epidemic had ever been considered a security matter before
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2017 5:14 PM CDT
He Fought AIDS by Convincing World It Was Security Threat
Richard Holbrooke, seen here in 2010, was instrumental in slowing the HIV/AIDS crisis by convincing the world it was a security threat in addition to a health crisis.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

No one person turned the tide in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but Richard Holbrooke—former US ambassador to the UN and president of the Security Council—was an instrumental part of saving millions of lives from the disease. In 2000, Holbrooke—having visited places like Cambodia and Namibia—was convinced the AIDS epidemic was not just a health crisis but an international security risk, Mosaic reports. This was an outrageous claim to many—no epidemic in modern history had ever been classified as a security matter before—but Holbrooke pushed on. In mid-2010, he got a UN Security Council resolution passed that mandated more AIDS prevention training for peacekeeping forces and asked countries to work together to fight the disease.

While the move was unprecedented, there was certainly reason to treat HIV/AIDS as a threat to—as Holbrooke put it—"the security, the stability of countries." By 2002, AIDS had killed more people than any other disease outbreak in history. If left unchecked, experts said it would drop life expectancy in some African countries by more than 20 years and kill 25% of all adults in Sub-Saharan Africa. With higher rates among reproductive-age adults and the military, AIDS could "hollow out" countries, allowing extremists with child soldiers to take over. Treating HIV/AIDS like a security threat convinced governments to fund research and spurred cooperation between countries. This cooperation and funding likely saved tens of millions of lives. Read the full story here. (More HIV/AIDS stories.)

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