Gates Donates $100M to AIDS Fund
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday donated $100 million to an international health fund to fight AIDS and called on European Union nations and other countries to make further contributions.
``A dramatic increase in funding is necessary and required to fight the pandemic,″ said foundation president Patty Stonesifer, who was in Brussels to meet with Poul Nielson, the EU’s development commissioner. She was also to meet with members of the European Parliament.
Stonesifer said the fight against AIDS was a ``top priority″ for Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s richest men.
``We support the establishment of the fund ... Improving health is key to poverty reduction,″ Stonesifer said, adding there were five million new infections of the virus last year alone.
The announcement of the contribution to the global fund was made ahead of a key U.N. conference on AIDS to be held next week in New York.
The fund was proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in April, when he called for a ``war chest″ of $7 billion to $10 billion annually to halt AIDS, which has hit Africa hardest and become the continent’s primary killer.
The contribution ``will form a cornerstone of the emerging global effort to reverse the HIV-AIDS pandemic,″ Annan said Tuesday in a statement by U.N. deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
At a U.N. conference on poverty last month, EU countries stepped back from donating money to the fund, arguing there were not enough guarantees yet that the money would be spent correctly.
Many richer countries were skeptical that the health fund would be a step in the right direction. Nielson argued that the fund needed to broaden its approach to include other diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria. The EU also wants to tie the fund to providing cheaper drugs for poorer countries.
The Microsoft founder has also donated $126 million to an earlier AIDS initiative and $750 million in the past five years to boost global immunization efforts and to research new medicine. Some 3 million children a year die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
``We believe that there is no higher priority than stopping transmission of this deadly disease,″ said Bill Gates in a statement announcing the new donation.
Of 36 million people infected with HIV around the world, 26 million live in Africa. Globally, the virus has killed 23 million people, including 17 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Stonesifer has been traveling around the world drumming up support for the fund. So far, the United States and France have been the only large donor countries to have contributed to the global fund, giving $200 million and $135 million respectively.
The Gates foundation’s assets topped $22 billion in 2000 and it gave away almost $1 billion.
On the Net,
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: http://www.gatesfoundation.org
United Nations AIDS conference: http://www.un.org/ga/aids
European Union Development directorate: