(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala said on Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's refusal to agree with President Clinton that AIDS is a national security threat is "tragic and dangerous." Last week, Clinton said the spread of AIDS around the world is a threat to U.S. security and world stability. Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, accused the president of politically pandering to the thousands of homosexual rights activists who marched on Washington last weekend.
"I think that that's tragic and dangerous," Shalala said on Fox News Sunday about Lott's view of AIDS. She added that "homophobia" has contributed to the rise of AIDS in the U.S., saying that when the disease was first discovered in the U.S. "we were too slow in getting on top of it and many people died."
Shalala denied that she was implying that Lott is homophobic.
However, she repeated her agreement with the president that high incidences of AIDS in underdeveloped countries, especially on the African continent, place a crippling economic and social burden on those nations, which threatens political stability.
"We know that infectious diseases know no borders, that they can affect this country, and in this case it is both in our economic interest and in our national security interest to work on these infectious diseases abroad," said Shalala.
"Basically AIDS is uncoupling the economic gains that we had in Africa as African countries are forced to shift more resources to their health care systems from their economic investments,'' she added.
"Eastern Europe also has this AIDS problem, Russia has it, India has it," she said.
"Every country in the world that we do business with, but more importantly that we need to be politically stable, is suffering from this huge onslaught of AIDS. And that makes the relationship economically and from the security point of view relevant to America."