- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

Most of the world's 34 million people living with AIDS/HIV are sub-Saharan Africans. The Clinton administration considers the African AIDS crisis a national security issue that deserves more attention. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart explained, "We have an interest in Africa, as far as our own national security and we need to look at this problem." Mr. Lockhart cited a Central Intelligence Agency report that envisions a worsening AIDS situation for the next 10 years.
In this election year, it's appropriate to ask: What will the presidential candidates promise to do about the crisis?
This summer, the White House hosted a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, head of a nation in the thick of the AIDS crisis. While some Americans don't believe AIDS should be a national security issue, South Africa is a strategically important nation. It has some of the world's richest mineral deposits, which the West needs to fuel its high-tech economies.
At their meetings, Mr. Clinton assured Mr. Mbeki that the United States is sympathetic to South Africa's goal of obtaining cheaper AIDS drugs. "We've got to get them to him. He's got to be able to afford them," Mr. Clinton said.
South Africa is the richest of all African countries. It has, perhaps, the best chance to beat this deadly virus. Unfortunately, South Africa already has 4 million citizens living with HIV an infection rate nearly 60 times that of the United States. And the country has problems that hurt its ability to tackle the AIDS crisis. It has one of the world's worst crime rates, partly a result of 30 percent unemployment and partly due to a justice system that is widely reported to be underfunded and corrupt. Political turmoil has followed the end of apartheid and contributed to general social disintegration. The African National Congress (ANC), which dominates the new government, lacks ruling experience and its leaders are Moscow-trained socialists.
Meanwhile, 10 percent of South Africa's adult population is infected with AIDS. Over the next decade these people will likely die, leaving at least 2 million orphans. As the AIDS problem intensifies, the government's ability to cope crumbles.
Heterosexual sex is the main culprit in this crisis. Typically, wives are left at home while promiscuous husbands are away at the mines for months at a time. These men then return home and pass on the virus to their wives. Often the women can't return to their parents due to dowry contracts or because their financial security is dependent upon their husbands. The mostly faithful wives and the innocent children are condemned to contracting deadly HIV.
Yet incredibly, Mr. Mbeki reportedly has used the "HIV does not cause AIDS" argument in lieu of promoting abstinence education, AZT for expectant mothers, and anti-retroviral medicines for dying AIDS patients. And Mr. Clinton's policy has been to promote condoms and bolster misdirected bureaucracies that have squandered much of the money given to them. American money has been funneled to Planned Parenthood's "Stepping Stones" curriculum, which promotes the myth that condoms prevent the spread of AIDS.
Planned Parenthood International and the U.N. Population Fund have canvassed South African schools with their anti-AIDS condom message. Meanwhile, in some townships, adolescents are engaging in up to six sexual encounters daily. Some tribal cultures also promote the myth that having sex with a virgin cleanses the man's body of the AIDS virus. In South Africa, it's rare that a girl older than 12 is a virgin. Abstinence education is desperately needed.
In addition to all this, health care is almost nonexistent for many South Africans. Government-run hospitals lack beds, linen, medicine, working toilets and trained health care providers. They are over capacity with AIDS patients, who quickly die from neglect if they have no money to bribe the staff or pay for medicines.
Whether or not our next president agrees that the AIDS crisis is a national security issue, the United States should help the millions of dying people and their innocent children. Until now, American help has been limited to money that ends up in the pockets of fat-cat politicians and a flood of condoms. Because HIV is a behaviorally transmitted virus, American aid must promote sexual abstinence. No money should be used to promote condoms as a false "solution" to the AIDS crisis.
As well, the U.S. government should encourage pharmaceutical firms to develop inexpensive but effective anti-retroviral drugs and then make them available as aid rather than cash. We should seek principled debt reduction or elimination for affected developing countries so those countries can devote the financial resources needed to fight AIDS. We should seek a prudent increase in U.S. funding for the international battle against AIDS. No money should be given to organizations that do not have accountability and control measures. Faith-based organizations that currently care for suffering people and their families must be counted among the eligible.
It's past time to help curb the dire situation in Africa. Our future president must have an effective plan to respond to this need.

Robert L. Maginnis is the Family Research Council's vice president for national security and foreign affairs.

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