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Gates, Merck Help Africa AIDS Fight

July 10, 2000

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) _ Bill Gates’ charity and the pharmaceutical giant Merck announced plans Monday to give tens of millions of dollars to help Botswana fight its crippling AIDS epidemic.

Nearly 36 percent of adults in Botswana are HIV infected, the highest rate of infection in the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity founded by the Microsoft founder and his wife, pledged $50 million over five years to help Botswana strengthen its primary health care system.

Merck and Co., which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., promised to manage the Gates program and donate the expensive antiretroviral medications that help control the disease.

``Given the magnitude of the public health challenger we are facing, Botswana welcomes the inauguration of this unique public-private partnership,″ Botswana’s Health Minister Joy Phumaphi said in a statement.

The announcement was made in Durban, South Africa, where the 13th International AIDS Conference is underway.

The project will focus on awareness campaigns, voluntary testing and counseling programs for those infected.

The project will also work with German drug company Boehringer-Ingelheim’s recently announced plan to offer a drug reducing risks for transmission of the virus from mother to child during birth free for five years to developing countries.

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