Gates Urges Botswanans to Undergo HIV Testing, Take Advantage of Free Antiretroviral Drugs
September 25, 2003
Microsoft Chair Bill Gates on Wednesday in Gaborone, Botswana, urged more Botswanans to undergo HIV testing in order to take advantage of free antiretroviral drugs, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. The government, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company Merck, has established an "aggressive" program to fight HIV/AIDS, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs for every HIV-positive person who needs treatment, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer. "I am surprised that people are reluctant to know their status even when programs are available," Gates said at a press conference with President Festus Mogae. He added, "The message about the importance of testing cannot be said often enough or strongly enough." More than 38% of adults in Botswana are HIV-positive -- the highest HIV prevalence in the world -- and stigma against people with HIV/AIDS "runs deep" in the country, the AP/Post-Intelligencer reports (Motseta, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/24). The Gates Foundation and Merck each donated $50 million to support the antiretroviral drug program, which is funded through the Botswana-based African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership, according to Xinhua News Agency. Gates said, "[W]hat we have seen has caused us to rededicate ourselves to the program. We are very committed. Our partnership with Botswana is for the long term" (Xinhua News Agency, 9/24). He said, "We will be helping over a long period of time and making sure that government programs are sustainable," adding that "more resources are needed." Gates and his wife, Melinda, stopped in Botswana on the last leg of an African tour, during which they also visited Mozambique and South Africa (Agence France-Presse, 9/24).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.