Gates Urges Botswanans To Undergo HIV Testing, Take Advantage of Free Antiretroviral Drugs
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).
Two newspapers on Thursday profiled the Gateses and their foundation's work in Africa. London's Guardian interviews Melinda Gates, asking what drives the Gateses' philanthropy. She said that the couple gives money because of "family tradition," according to the Guardian. Following the death of Bill Gates' mother in 1994, Melinda Gates said, "We were thinking a lot about how Bill and his dad would start working together now. Was there something they could do together that they were both passionate about, and philanthropy, giving something back, was something that his mom believed deeply in" (Carroll, Guardian, 9/25). "While the Gateses embrace old-style charity, their methods are thoroughly 21st century," the Christian Science Monitor says, adding that much of the couple's money goes toward research aimed at finding solutions to some of the world's major health problems, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. Health care workers in Africa say that the Gateses are "profoundly affecting the direction of research and aid, and creating new hope for tackling some of the most difficult problems" on the continent, according to the Monitor (Itano, Christian Science Monitor, 9/25).