UNAIDS Executive Director Compares AIDS Pandemic to Threat of Terrorism, Says E.U. "Has Failed" to Deal With Disease
April 20, 2004
The spread of HIV is "as big of a threat as terrorism," and the European Union "has failed" to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic even as the group expands into Eastern Europe, where the epidemic is growing fastest, UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said on Monday in Oslo, Norway, Reuters reports. Speaking at a seminar organized by the Red Cross, Piot compared HIV/AIDS to terrorism, saying that the disease can cause poverty, spark political unrest, weaken defense forces in heavily affected countries and lead to cross-border conflicts, according to Reuters. "Millions of orphans, children with no future -- it's enough that there is a warlord who puts a Kalashnikov [rifle] in their hands," he said. Although HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa -- where at least 70% of the world's 40 million HIV-positive people live -- the epidemic is growing the fastest in Eastern Europe, Piot said, according to Reuters. "The E.U. has failed in dealing with AIDS at its borders, at its doorsteps, including in some of the new enlargement countries," Piot said. On May 1, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Cyprus will formally join the European Union, increasing its population from 380 million to 450 million, Reuters reports. "Some of the enlargement countries have done very well, like Poland, but the Baltic states have big problems," Piot added. He said that responsibility for the fight against HIV/AIDS was not clearly defined within the European Union, and he called on the body to designate a commission to manage the epidemic, according to Reuters (Sethov, Reuters, 4/19).
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