Indian Newspapers React to Bill Gates’ Trip, Gates Foundation $100M Grant to Fight AIDS in India
Indian newspapers this week have published editorials in response to Microsoft CEO Bill Gates' trip to the country. At the start of his trip, Gates announced a $100 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to help fight HIV/AIDS in the country. The grant is to be administered by Indian Health Minister Shatrughan Sinha. However, Sinha blamed Gates and U.S. Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill for "spreading panic" in India about HIV/AIDS and said that reports that projected India could have 25 million people with HIV/AIDS by 2010 are "completely inaccurate" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/11). Summaries of three of the editorials appear below:
- It is a "telling commentary" on India's fight against HIV/AIDS that it takes a visit from Gates to "focus the country's attention on the problem," an Economic Times editorial states. The attempt by Sinha and the National AIDS Control Organization to "ignore the large absolute numbers and take comfort in the fact that the 'prevalence of disease in the country is much lower than in many other Asian countries' ... is poor consolation," the editorial says. HIV/AIDS awareness programs "coupled with drives for free distribution of condoms do not call for vast funds and yet can go a long way to prevent the spread" of the disease, the Times states. "We need to act now if we are not to go the way of many African countries where [HIV/AIDS] has led to a sharp increase in poverty and a decrease in life expectancy," the editorial concludes (Economic Times, 11/12).
- The message from Sinha to Gates is "clear -- give us your money to fight HIV/AIDS ... but don't raise any uncomfortable questions," a Times of India editorial states. Gates' fears that an HIV/AIDS epidemic "could destabilize the country both socially and economically are well-founded," the editorial says. However, the government's response "has been to slam Gates instead of coming up with strategies to tackle the problem," according to the Times of India. India's attitude should be that the "foundation's money will go a long way in the fight against" the disease, and Sinha "should seize on this rather than be such a spoilsport," the editorial concludes (Times of India, 11/11).
- Gates "deserves kudos" for his pledge -- which is "almost equal to what the U.S. government has pledged" to India to fight HIV/AIDS -- because such private philanthropy is "unprecedented," an Indian Express editorial states. The donation will hopefully "spu[r] the health ministry to wake up to the magnitude of the problem it has shirked or skirted so far," the editorial says. According to the Indian Express, the health ministry "has abdicated its responsibility to lead the fight" against HIV/AIDS, and "government initiative alone" will not "wipe out this threat." Gates' donation "will hopefully spur Indian businessmen to awaken to their social responsibility," the Indian Express continues. The editorial concludes, "Let us accept Gates' help with good grace and learn from it. It is past time we addressed the problem instead of bickering over whether or not it exists" (Indian Express, 11/12).