U.N. says must raise peacekeepers’ AIDS awareness

More soldiers and U.N. peacekeepers are being trained to try to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, but greater efforts are required to stem the disease in the ranks, the United Nations said on Monday.

Peacekeeping missions usually attract prostitutes, and young recruits and newly rotated troops must be educated about AIDS and prepared for their deployment, particularly in African countries, the UNAIDS agency said in a report.

Peter Piot, UNAIDS executive director, will present the report to the U.N. Security Council on Monday - five years after the council agreed to increase AIDS education among peacekeepers and encourage voluntary testing.

There had been significant progress in implementing the resolution, but much more needed to be done, the report said.

Some 105 countries currently contribute more than 66,000 uniformed peacekeepers - troops, military observers and civilian police - to 18 U.N. missions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When troop rotations are factored in, the annual figure is closer to 100,000.

AIDS advisers have been deployed in nine U.N. missions to increase awareness of the disease and provide advice, condoms and counselling. Similar work is also carried out in smaller peacekeeping deployments.

But the cultural diversity of peacekeeping forces and the constant rotation of troops made it difficult to create sustainable programmes, underscoring the importance of AIDS initiatives in national uniformed services.

Uniformed services - including police, civil defence forces and soldiers - face a high risk of contracting and spreading HIV, the report said. Often “imbued with a sense of invulnerability” they are likely to have multiple partners and unprotected sex, it said.

Former U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who initiated the resolution in July 2000, said at the time: “Peacekeepers bring AIDS with them and take it home. Human nature is human nature.”

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.