November 11, 2002
... Indias leaders are well aware of the risk AIDS poses -- they are beginning to speak out, breaking powerful and longstanding taboos about discussing sex, drug use and this disease. The prevention efforts being made here are already starting to show measurable results.
In fact, with its vast human resources and burgeoning pharmaceutical industry, India may be one of the developing nations best positioned to contain the epidemic and offer global leadership in confronting AIDS.
... Much more needs to be done now to reach the populations that fuel the spread of the disease in India. For example, mobile populations -- truckers, soldiers and migrant laborers -- have HIV rates up to 10 times greater than the national average and serve as a bridge from high-risk groups to the general population. Other nations -- including Senegal, Thailand and Brazil -- have demonstrated that HIV rates can be reduced, sometimes substantially, through programs that reach those most at risk.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is in India this week to make a long-term commitment to Indian partners for a major new prevention initiative aimed at mobile populations. The initiative will focus on proven prevention strategies, such as voluntary counseling and testing, condom distribution, and treatment of [STDs] as well as public education programs to reduce the fear and stigma of AIDS.
India cannot face the challenge of AIDS alone. Wealthy nations, businesses and the philanthropic world must contribute to efforts to contain Indias AIDS crisis before it expands. Far greater resources and expertise must be devoted to prevention programs, training health care workers and supporting research into new medical advancements.
We know how to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. The choice now is clear and stark: India can either be home to the worlds largest and most devastating AIDS epidemic -- or with the support of the rest of the world, it can become the best example of how this virus can be defeated.
Bill Gates, the chair and chief software architect of Microsoft, is co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.