Tenet: AIDS Threatens Worldwide Stability, Economic Health

The worldwide AIDS epidemic undermines the stability and economies of many countries and may threaten U.S. national security, CIA Director George J. Tenet said Tuesday.

More than 40 million people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, most of them in southern Africa, Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee. About 3 million people died last year of the disease.

A recent intelligence report estimates that there may be 100 million AIDS cases outside Africa by 2010. Tenet said India alone could have up to 25 million cases — more than any country in the world — with up to 15 million cases projected in China.

"The national security dimensions of the virus are plain: It can undermine economic growth, exacerbate social tensions, diminish military preparedness, create huge social welfare costs and further weaken already beleaguered states," Tenet said. "And the virus respects no border."

President Bush has asked Congress for $15 billion over the next five years to battle AIDS around the world, up from $5 billion already planned for 14 African and Caribbean countries. Bush is also asking for $16 billion to fight AIDS in the United States, an increase of 7 percent.

The National Intelligence Council report on the global AIDS threat, released late last year, predicted that a significant increase in AIDS cases would occur in the next decade in Russia, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Sharing of infected drug needles is the main cause of the disease's spread in Russia, where the estimated 2 million HIV-positive cases today is expected to grow as high as 8 million by 2010. Nigeria's cases could rise from about 6 million to as many as 15 million — about a quarter of the adult population — and Ethiopia could have up to 10 million cases, up from between 3 million and 5 million.