Tuesday, October 14, 2003

AIDS in India

Richard C. Holbrooke, one of America’s top retired diplomats, fears India is failing to take a pending AIDS crisis seriously enough.

Mr. Holbrooke, now director of the Global Business Coalition for HIV/AIDS, this week told a conference in New Delhi that India must do more to educate its population of 1 billion people about safeguards against the spread of the deadly disease.

“Education means talking about sex and intimacy. These are difficult problems in any country in the world, not just India,” Mr. Holbrooke told the conference of government and business leaders.

“But if you don’t do it, millions of people will be infected and every infected person will die, even with treatment.”

Mr. Holbrooke questioned the Indian government’s official figure of 4.5 million people with the AIDS virus but predicted the number of cases would rise.

“India has the largest number of AIDS victims after South Africa,” he said. “We have to speak frankly and openly to young boys and girls, 13 to 15 years old, and tell them how AIDS is really spread and how to avoid it.”

Mr. Holbrooke is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Germany and a former assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs.

Peck picks Pickering

Former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering is this year’s winner of a prestigious award for presidential service, along with $25,000 in prize money.

Mr. Pickering received the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s Paul Peck Presidential Award for Service to a President in recognition of more than 40 years in the diplomatic corps.

Mr. Pickering, now a senior vice president with the Boeing Co., served as ambassador to El Salvador, India, Israel, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and the United Nations. He retired from the State Department in 2001 as a career ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Final days in Finland

The departing U.S. ambassador to Finland finds herself in greater public demand these days than at any other time in her two years in Helsinki.

“Everybody seems to have realized that I’ll be leaving in a couple of months, and invitations are pouring in nonstop,” Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter told our State Department correspondent Nicholas Kralev, who was visiting Helsinki last week.

After their afternoon meeting at Mrs. McElveen-Hunter’s favorite cafe, she rushed to her third speech that day, with more events to follow later in the evening.

Finland’s top officials already are mourning the ambassador’s imminent departure, as is the embassy’s staff. Finns say her fresh ideas and hard work revitalized the U.S.-Finnish relationship at a difficult time for the United States and Europe.

She is just as sad to leave her post.

“But it’s time for me to return to my business,” said Mrs. McElveen-Hunter, founder and president of Pace Communications Inc. in Greensboro, N.C.

Mr. Kralev, who had been invited to the annual conference of the European Foundation for Quality Management in Helsinki, was struck by the continued lack of security for government officials in Northern Europe, even after Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was fatally stabbed while shopping.

At the conference, in the presence of Finnish President Tarja Halonen, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and more than 1,000 delegates, there was no screening at all and anyone could have walked in with anything concealed in a pocket.

Mr. Kralev’s hosts from the organization Finnfacts explained that the Nordic people cherish their freedom too much to subject themselves to the security constraints so prevalent in the United States.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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