The enemy within: Southern African militaries quarter-century battle with HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS have emerged as a major challenge to communities in Southern Africa since its widespread manifestation in the 1980s. This epidemic has escalated alarmingly over the past 25 years to affect over 20% of populations in its global epicentre, sub-Saharan Africa, and especially Southern Africa. Faced with this health crisis, nations have reacted to raise awareness, increase prevention, provide adequate care and treatment, and have even attempted to find a cure, but so far without success.

National research and policy and strategy formulation to respond to the epidemic and related challenges have been  mandated to national commissions that in turn have turned towards sectors such as agriculture, tourism, mining, labour and uniformed services, requestingthese entities to develop sector-specific policies that will then form the basis of a comprehensive national HIV and AIDS policy and strategy.

Uniformed services are in many ways at the coalface of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in the sense that they are vulnerable both to contracting HIV/AIDS and serving as agents for its transmission. Reliable estimates of HIV/AIDS prevalence within Southern African militaries are, however, hard to come by and the implications for the military is at present almost entirely speculative. It is thus extremely important that effective, comprehensive, forward-looking responses be put in place to mitigate the possible effects of the epidemic on the militaries of the sub-region.

It is against this background that a country-based research initiative by the Institute for Security Studies was initiated to seek to develop policy options for the mitigation of the impact of the epidemic on the armed forces of Southern Africa. This book, The Enemy Within: Southern African Militaries’ Quarter-Century Battle with HIV and AIDS, is the product of that research, and forms an important part of ongoing initiatives aimed at enhancing our understanding of the challenges and offering a platform from which to launch further focused initiatives that should ultimately lead to our winning the battle against the ravaging epidemic. It draws from the experience of the armed forces of Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the epidemic, its implications for armed forces and for sharing possible solutions.

Defence departments and armed forces within the Southern African Development Community have been challenged by political leadership to begin to harmonise and coordinate their efforts towards combating the scourge of HIV and AIDS, and this book forms an important contribution thereto as a source of information on common practice for militaries to learn lessons for the future. The objective of this endeavour is to protect the health of soldiers and their communities, and ultimately to support the primary role of the armed forces of the sub-region, to adequately contribute to regional and national security as well as to human security in Southern Africa.

Edited by: Martin Rupiya

The Institute for Security Studies’ MilAIDS Project is funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund



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