Clinton Administration Declares AIDS a National Security Threat

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM - One of the nation's top intelligence agencies reportedly has named an infectious disease as a threat to national security, the first time such a thing has happened.

According to The Washington Post, the National Security Council is directing an urgent reassessment of the government's efforts to combat AIDS, a virus with no known cure or immunization that has claimed more than 16 million lives worldwide since it emerged in the early 1980s.

The new government initiative includes a doubling of budget requests - to $254 million - to combat AIDS overseas, plus the creation of an interagency White House working group. The new group has been ordered to "develop a series of expanded initiatives to drive the international efforts" to fight AIDS.

An NSC report says that AIDS threatens political stability in the world's lesser-developed regions. It says there is a "particularly strong correlation with the likelihood of state failure in partial democracies" where the AIDS rate is highest, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

"Revolutionary wars, ethnic wars, genocide and disruptive regime transitions" are just some of the political and social consequences that can be expected from the spreading AIDS epidemic, said the report.

A White House spokesman said President Clinton would bring up the issue up later this month at a meeting with European Union leaders in Portugal and at a meeting with Group of Eight leaders in July.

Clinton wants "to make sure we can marshal the kinds of resources ... to help countries confront the disease," in the words of his spokesman. The Clinton administration is said to be particularly concerned about sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Republican Leader Says AIDS Not a Threat to US Security

On Fox News Sunday, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott said he did not agree that AIDS posed a threat to U.S. security.

"No. I guess this is just the president trying to make an appeal to certain groups, but, no, I don't view that as a national security (threat), not to our national security interests," Lott said.

White House AIDS Policy Director Sandra Thurman - who is working with the National Security Council to develop ways of addressing the AIDS threat - said Lott is way off base.

She said his suggestion of any political motivation is "absurd" and reflects a lack of understanding about the crisis.

According to Thurman, "This global pandemic will make the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages pale in comparison, unless our response is finally commensurate with the magnitude of the problem."

Although there is no known cure for AIDS, the virus is preventable if people at risk take precautions to avoid contact with the blood and body fluids of infected persons.