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Microsoft Chair Bill Gates Gives India $100 Million to Fight AIDS

November 11, 2002

Microsoft Corp. Chair Bill Gates traveled to New Delhi to announce his charitable foundation will spend $100 million over the next decade to slow the spread of AIDS among truckers, soldiers and migrant laborers in the hopes of preventing a devastating epidemic in India. The commitment, the Gates Foundation’s largest single-country initiative, is intended to underscore the urgency of AIDS in India, where at least 4 million people are already infected with HIV. A recent report from the US National Intelligence Council projects 20 million to 25 million infections in India by 2010, the most of any country.

Dr. Helene Gayle, who heads the Gates Foundation’s AIDS efforts, said the first grants will be awarded early next year, but full details of the program have yet to be worked out. The foundation has hired the director of the New Delhi office of McKinney & Co., Ashok Alexander, to coordinate the initiative. Grant decisions will be made from the foundation’s headquarters in Seattle.

The foundation is seeking to reach India’s mobile populations, which have shown infection rates far higher than the general population. It plans to fund prevention efforts that have proven successful elsewhere, including condom distribution, treatment of other STDs, and high-profile public education efforts featuring popular celebrities as well as civic leaders. Gates said the initiative will complement India’s National AIDS Control Program, and the foundation will establish partnerships with government ministries, the national railway and oil companies and other organizations.

“At the truck stops, there’s a thriving commercial sex industry,” Gayle said. “That’s clearly a population we would work with. We also know there’s same-sex activity in some of these mobile populations,” she said. Gayle said the foundation would support policy reforms such as shortening the time truckers wait to cross borders between India’s states, which could reduce opportunities for HIV transmission.

The initiative underscores the Gates Foundation’s strategy of promoting AIDS prevention while leaving treatment largely to others. While the number of HIV infections in India is large, it represents only about 1 percent of its population, far lower than infection rates in southern Africa.

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Excerpted from:
Wall Street Journal
11.11.2002; David Bank

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