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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines and critiques how diseases have come to be seen as national and international security threats, beginning with a brief look at the long history of disease as a threat to societies, then turning to deepening linkages between disease and national security in the post–Cold War era. It then examines four health threats that have entered Western security agendas since the 1990s: emerging infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, bioterrorism, and drug-resistant infections, focusing on how the public health and security communities have combined to construct these particular health problems as security threats. The chapter also examines some apparent benefits of framing diseases as security threats. The final section discusses critiques of the securitisation of health, noting that these point to the need for policymakers to grapple with deeply political trade-offs regarding how much “security” from health threats we want and what we will sacrifice to get it.

Keywords: national security, infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases, antimicrobial resistance, securitisation

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