Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company
Nation & World : Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Gates pledges $100 million to AIDS battle
By Seattle Times news services
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said yesterday that it will
contribute $100 million to a global fund to combat AIDS in developing
countries, particularly hard-hit sub-Saharan Africa.
It also called on other international donors to support the fund begun
last spring by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The $100 million, to be contributed over an unspecified number of years,
is in addition to about $350 million the foundation has contributed to
global efforts to stop the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV), which causes AIDS, and to research an AIDS vaccine.
“We believe that there is no higher priority than stopping transmission of
this deadly disease,” said Bill Gates, co-founder of both Microsoft and
A major contribution from Gates was considered critical to the fund’s
success, and foundation President Patty Stonesifer expressed hope the
money would “act as a catalyst” to stimulate other giving. She said the
money will be directed to programs for prevention of HIV transmission.
The contribution “will form a cornerstone of the emerging global effort to
reverse the HIV-AIDS pandemic,” Annan said yesterday in a statement
released by U.N. deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
The gift ranks close to what two governments so far have pledged to the
fund. The U.S. has pledged $200 million and France $127 million.
Annan said in April that $7 billion to $10 billion would be needed each
year to turn back the spread of HIV, which infects 36 million people
worldwide, 70 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, the virus
has killed 23 million people, including 17 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
The idea was that $1 billion would be pledged to the Global Fund for AIDS
and Health by next week, when the U.N. General Assembly will hold a
special session on AIDS.
Including the Gates foundation money, about $428 million has been pledged,
according to figures supplied by Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the World
Health Organization in Geneva.
Credit-Suisse, a Swiss bank, has agreed to give $1 million; and Annan will
donate his $100,000 in prize money from the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, to
be awarded in Philadelphia on July Fourth.
The fund is aimed at helping poor countries establish prevention,
treatment and care programs for HIV.
Discussion of the fund became bogged down in questions of how it would be
organized and administered and how the money would be divided between
prevention programs and payment for expensive anti-retroviral drug
Other than a statement supporting Annan’s idea and emphasizing the
importance of prevention, released at the time of Annan’s announcement,
Gates had remained silent. As a key player in the global effort against
AIDS, his perceived reticence to contribute was seen by some as a lack of
confidence in the fund.
But in the past several months, foundation officials investigated how the
fund would work and apparently were satisfied with the results.
Although details of fund administration and disbursal are unlikely to be
completed for many months, Stonesifer said, “the reason we’re going now is
both because we believe we can use the funds appropriately” and to “prime
the pump” for other potential donors.
The Gates foundation, which has an asset base of $23.5 billion, spent more
than $1 billion on health projects around the world last year.
Without action, an estimated 100 million people will be infected by 2005,
warned a report yesterday by the International Crisis Group, a private
organization that works to prevent conflicts in global hot spots.
The group, headed by Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, warned
that AIDS was no longer just a public-health issue but also a
national-security issue because it “destroys the very fiber of what
constitutes a nation” by dismantling families, wiping out large segments
of the work force, and undermining the military and police forces.
The group said wealthy countries still have a chance to stem the pandemic,
if they act quickly.
“This is a window of opportunity,” the group said. “But the history of the
AIDS crisis tells us that window will not stay open for long.”
Compiled from reports by The Washington Post, Knight Ridder Newspapers and
The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company