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HIV/AIDS and Security: fact, fiction and evidence

Armed forces spread HIV/AIDS! Many observers assume the link between HIV/AIDS, military forces and 'security' to be well understood, particularly that between the movement and activities of uniformed services and the epidemic. But evidence for this is patchy, according to a new report to be published by LSE academics on Thursday 9 March.

Professors Tony Barnett and Gwyn Prins of LSEAIDS found that the HIV/AIDS and security connection has been over-interpreted, and even misinterpreted, in the rush to respond to a perceived threat.

In their study, HIV/AIDS and Security: the fact, fiction and evidence, the arguments and the evidence are reviewed, as are the reasons for precipitate response based on poor evidence.

The report shows what information we need and why we need it urgently. Where there is good data - and there are one or two very specific cases - the report can tell a South African story where soldiers were indeed a powerful primary vector. It looks in particular at the threat to Russian stability and regional security as HIV/AIDS affects the Russian armed forces. But it also shows why you cannot generalise from the few examples of good evidence. It provides a comprehensive critical review of work published since 2000 and suggests a twelve point programme of high priority research topics.

Professor Barnett said: "The HIV/AIDS and security link is plagued with 'factoids' - soft opinions that have hardened into fact, pieces of data that look credible at first glance, but are insecurely grounded in evidence, for example everyone in the field 'knows' that AIDS was spread in Cambodia by UN troops; in fact this is not true and there is little or no evidence to support the assertion. In fact very few people know anything about HIV/AIDS and the role of soldiers in spreading it - mainly because there is so little to know".

Professor Prins added, "What the report also highlights are the dilemmas for decision-makers concerned with peace-making and peace-keeping. In the face of this weird and destructive endemic, the option to do nothing is politically - not to say morally - unacceptable. This report also aims to help decision-makers make least-bad decisions in very tough circumstances."

The full report is now available and has been published electronically. It can be down-loaded as a full colour pdf file from www.lse.ac.uk/lseaids


· Professor Tony Barnett, LSE AIDS, on 020 7107 5290, email: a.s.barnett@lse.ac.uk| 
· Professor Gwyn Prins, LSE Mackinder Centre for the Study of Long Wave Events, on 020 7852 3678, email: g.prins@lse.ac.uk| 

7 March 2006