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Gates urges new war against AIDS

Gates urges new war against AIDS

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Business leaders and governments should step up their efforts in the battle against AIDS, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told participants at the World Economic Forum on Monday.

Gates, who last week gave a further $100 million to help the efforts to contain AIDS, spoke of his horror that only 2 percent of all funds handed over by philanthropists for charitable giving went from rich countries to poor ones.

He said that when he gave $50 million to research on the killer disease malaria, he was told that he was doubling the funds available.

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"That's the most terrible thing I've heard. It's outrageous how little is put into research on malaria," Gates said.

It was lucky AIDS was present in the rich world, said Gates, otherwise the resources being devoted to finding a vaccine for the pandemic would be even lower.

Meanwhile, a United Nations population expert predicted a "fatality avalanche" from AIDS and said that so far, every prediction of the scale of AIDS deaths has proved a serious underestimate.

At the meeting in Davos, Switzerland, William Roedy, chairman of MTV Networks, said 36 million people were now infected with the AIDS virus, although 90 percent of them did not know they were infected.

"It is a global tragedy which needs a global effort," Roedy said.

He urged every company to develop a policy on AIDS. He said that when his company first started providing free condoms, 800 were taken from six washrooms in the first 24 hours.

"It's not a matter of advocating sex. All you are saying is 'Have safe sex,'" he said.

Outside the meeting, Joseph Chamie, director of the U.N. population division, told CNN that even if a cure was found, millions more would still die of AIDS because of the difficulties in delivering vaccines and drugs in underdeveloped countries.

Chamie said that every estimate so far of AIDS infection rates and deaths had proved to be low.

He predicted a "fatality avalanche" would come and said that if the experts made realistic estimates now, they would be accused of scaremongering.

"It is a question of how high we can put the figures without being looked upon as lunatics," Chamie said.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for International Development at Harvard, said rich countries like the United States were failing to rise to the challenge of AIDS, providing just $78 million a year for it out of a $10 trillion economy.

"You can't fight the greatest pandemic for years without resources," Sachs said.

As well as chiding developed countries' governments for being slow to recognise the scale of the problem, some Davos delegates were critical of African governments for the slowness of their education campaigns.

But at another Davos meeting Peter Piot, UNAIDS director, said there was more political leadership on AIDS in Africa than on any other continent. AIDS, he said, needed to be "politicised" to get it on the agenda.

Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said the battle was being lost because there were 15,000 new infections every day. It was philanthropy that had "jump-started the work, but now governments were coming in."

Gates pledges $100m for AIDS
January 27, 2001
U.N. World AIDS Day held as disease spreads
December 1, 2000

Bill Gates
World Economic Forum
UN Population Division

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