(CNSNews.com) - Presiding over the UN Security Council Monday, Vice President Al Gore pledged another $150 million in US funds, which will be spent primarily in Africa, towards the war on AIDS. This latest contribution brings the total promised by the US for fighting AIDS globally to $325 million.
Gore's address was the first time a U.S. vice president has chaired the Security Council, and the first meeting of the 15-member body dealing with a health issue rather than a peace or security matter. Gore said AIDS, for which there is no known cure, threatens African and world stability as much if not more than armed conflict.
"When 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected every minute; when 11 million children have already become orphans, and many must be raised by other children; when a single disease threatens everything from economic strength to peacekeeping - we clearly face a security threat of the first magnitude," said Gore.
While few dispute the devastating effects of the AIDS/HIV virus, which has infected more than 33 million people worldwide - 70 percent of whom are in Africa - some people argue that private relief agencies, such as the International Red Cross or religious charities, can give more AIDS help to underdeveloped countries than the UN is able to provide.
"It's an issue that the United States is going to have to address one way or another," said Heritage Foundation International Fellow Brett D. Schaefer.
"It's certainly much wiser to work though private institutions as much as possible in this regard," including giving tax credits to firms that assist with supplies and medical research, Schaefer told CNSNews.com. He added that governments "have been largely ineffective over the last decade" in stemming the spread of AIDS.
"In fact, you could make a reasonable argument that in many cases autocrats in these countries have let the situation get out of hand," said Schaefer.
In his address, Gore admitted that more could be done to coordinate local, national and international government health organizations to achieve a kind of "synergy" that would increase their efforts to combat AIDS.
'How we spend the money, and how effectively we target it - not just how much we spend - will determine how many lives we save," said Gore.
Wherever the money comes from, most experts agree that AIDS is a global problem that is not confined to just Africa.
"I think it is important to think of the problem there as part of our, and all the world's, problems," University of Illinois Center for East Asian Studies Director George T. Yu told CNSNews.com.
"I think it is a very good idea that we pay attention to this issue and help as much as possible. Because in the end, what effects Africa is going to have an impact upon us here," Yu said.