11. Minutes of AIDS Working Group Meeting1

PRESENT:

  • Richard E. Benedick, OES/E
  • Scott N. Thayer, OES
  • Richard Kauzlerich, IO
  • Neil Boyer, IO/T
  • Dr. Kenneth Bart, AID/ST
  • Dr. Paul Goff, M/MED
  • William Robertson, AF
  • Bryce M. Gerlach, NEA/EX

Mr. Benedick opened the meeting by explaining the interest of the Executive Secretary and other 7th Floor principals in developing a comprehensive Department response to the international implications of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and the tasking of OES to coordinate that response. The disease is now appearing throughout the world, and the Department should be prepared to deal with its attendant problems in the political, diplomatic, and public health arenas. Naturally, with such a large population diagnosed as having AIDS, the United States has to consider not only the requests for assistance which are coming in from various governments but the real danger that AIDS could be a divisive factor in our bilateral relationships as countries attempt to assess blame for the epidemic.

Dr. Goff reported that M/MED has been engaged since April 1984 in addressing the health implications of AIDS for Foreign Service personnel, and we are now faced with the first case of a USG employee apparently contracting AIDS while overseas. The spread of the disease seems inexorable for the moment, although the moderation of personal behavior is essential to its control and eventual elimination. In the [Page 33]United States, the Centers for Disease Control have been spearheading the effort and are the link with the international efforts being coordinated by the World Health Organization. The extent of those efforts is unclear, though, and it was agreed that an attempt would be made to better clarify them for the next meeting.

Mr. Boyer described some information he had just received regarding the WHO program, including the convening of a meeting in Geneva in mid-December. Dr. Bart confirmed that he would attend that meeting. In general, however, the extent of the WHO’s efforts was unclear, and it was agreed that an attempt would be made to obtain better information prior to the2 next meeting.3

It became apparent as the discussion continued that the working group should be expanded to include all the regional bureaus since the disease was present on all continents and would require a global response. In addition, it was decided that OES would serve as a clearinghouse for the working group as information became availble from various sources, and would serve as liaison with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has had the major role on AIDS domestically4 and possess the principal technical expertise.

Finally, the creation of the communications caption EXDIS COMMANDER was briefly reviewed.5 There was a concensus among the group that its use should be expanded worldwide, and that incoming cables in that channel would be distributed as their sensitivity permitted.

  1. Source: Department of State, AIDS, 1984–1987, Lot 89D137, AIDS: Cables, Meetings + Misc. Confidential.
  2. An unknown hand underlined the phrases “Dr. Bart,” “WHO’s efforts,” and “better information prior to the.”
  3. In telegram 11347 from Geneva, December 19, the Embassy provided a summary of the WHO meeting on AIDS. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D850912–0947)
  4. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “OES would serve as a clearinghouse for the working group as information became available from various sources, and would serve as liaison with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has had the major role on AIDS domestically.”
  5. In telegram 362914 to all African diplomatic posts, November 27, the Department stated, “A new EXDIS subcategory, EXDIS Commander, has been created for the use of the Department and AF diplomatic posts in communicating information on matters pertaining to the AIDS outbreak in Africa. Department distribution of the EXDIS Commander traffic will be limited to OES (action), S, D, P, S/S, Regional Bureau, INR, S/P, PA, and M/MED. Given this fixed and limited distribution, traffic regarding this subject will no longer be handled in the NODIS channel.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D850850–0460)