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Bill Gates Launches Africa AIDS Initiative

Bill Gates Launches Africa AIDS Initiative




RNewswire- AsiaNet/ -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK)(1) and the Republic of Botswana today announced the establishment of the "Botswana Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership", a new initiative to improve the overall state of HIV/AIDS care and treatment in Botswana. In collaboration with the government of Botswana, and with an intensive commitment of resources, the "Botswana Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership" will endeavor to advance significantly HIV/AIDS prevention, healthcare access, patient management and treatment of HIV in Botswana, a country where an estimated 29 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive. The Gates Foundation will dedicate $50 million over five years to help Botswana fundamentally strengthen its primary health care system. Merck and The Merck Company Foundation will match the Gates Foundation funding through two major components: the development and management of the program and the contribution of antiretroviral medicines. This collaborative program is designed to demonstrate the benefits of a comprehensive approach to improving the care of people living with HIV in a resource-constrained country.

"Given the magnitude of the public health challenge we are facing, Botswana welcomes the inauguration of this unique public-private sector partnership," said Joy Phumaphi, Minister of Health of Botswana. "Cooperation and collaboration among all sectors involved in the struggle against HIV/AIDS is essential to the success of practical approaches to preventing and treating HIV infection. The commitment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Merck to helping us meet this critical health challenge is encouraging, and we look forward to working with them to improve the health of thousands of people in Botswana living with HIV."

Based on initial results, the Gates Foundation and Merck will work together with the government of Botswana, global health and development agencies, private sector supporters, donors and other potential sponsors to secure long-term sustainability. Lessons learned from this project will be shared widely throughout the international health and development community to help strengthen the global response to the challenge of HIV/AIDS.

A Comprehensive Approach to HIV Care and Treatment The goal of the project is to reduce the spread of HIV and to significantly increase the awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Botswana.

"We are pleased to support such a comprehensive HIV/AIDS intervention program," said Dr. Gordon Perkin, Director, Global Health Program, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We look forward to working with Merck, our other partners, and the people of Botswana. This well-conceived plan brings together the best of the public and private sectors to demonstrate a sustainable, comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and care program." The project will begin with an evaluation of the level of HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention programs and the care and treatment of people with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. This evaluation will support the development of a detailed plan that will specify goals, benchmarks for success, and resources needed to complete the project as well as ensure that it can be sustained past the five-year pilot stage.

Focusing on improving existing healthcare capabilities for people with HIV/AIDS, the project will start with awareness, education and voluntary testing and counseling programs. In consultation with health officials and treating physicians in Botswana, it will proceed to implement appropriate prevention and intervention strategies. As the project advances, access to HIV treatment and care will expand significantly, in step with healthcare infrastructure improvements, including treatments for tuberculosis, HIV- related opportunistic infections and HIV infection.

Targeted Project Building on Operational Expertise; Boehringer-Ingelheim and Unilever to Join Partnership

"Merck believes that targeted and comprehensive interventions will lead to long-term healthcare solutions to the challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in developing countries," said Raymond V. Gilmartin, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Merck & Co., Inc. "By focusing intense efforts on Botswana, we hope to show what can be achieved with comprehensive interventions across the entire spectrum of care, from voluntary testing and counseling and education to the provision of increased access to medicines and appropriate monitoring of treatment. We are pleased to announce that Boehringer-Ingelheim and Unilever have already agreed to join in this partnership."

Boehringer-Ingelheim has pledged to donate medication for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection, and Unilever PLC will contribute expertise in setting up distribution systems and public communications and awareness programs. The Gates Foundation and Merck will seek additional participants in the project.

The "Botswana Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership" will be conducted with the participation of other national governments; the Harvard AIDS Institute and other academic centers; global health and development agencies, such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); non-governmental organizations (NGOs); HIV community organizations, and people living with HIV. The initial five-year commitment will be managed through a local, multidisciplinary team, with the ultimate goal of catalyzing leadership and commitment within Botswana so that the project is sustainable after the pilot phase has been completed. An advisory panel of key stakeholders and global experts will be appointed to oversee the program.

First Comprehensive Initiative Launched in the Spirit of Recently Announced United Nations Cooperative Endeavor

In May, Merck joined with leading international health and development agencies and four other pharmaceutical companies to form a new public rivate cooperative endeavor to accelerate access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment in developing countries. Merck pledged to work alongside UNAIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO), The World Bank, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), together with Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoWellcome, and F. Hoffmann-La Roche to significantly improve access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment in developing countries.

This project is the first comprehensive initiative launched in the spirit of this UN/industry collaboration. Consistent with the set of guiding principles endorsed by all participants in the UN/industry collaboration, this project reflects a common vision of how the HIV/AIDS epidemic can be more effectively tackled in developing countries: -- unequivocal and ongoing political commitment by national governments -- strengthened national capacity -- engagement of all sectors of national society and the global community -- efficient, reliable and secure distribution systems -- significant additional funding from national and international sources -- continued investment in research and development by the pharmaceutical industry.

Merck & Co., Inc., is a global, research-driven pharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of human and animal health products, directly and through its joint ventures, and provides pharmaceutical benefit services through Merck-Medco Managed Care. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving peoples' lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based Foundation has an asset base of approximately $21.8 billion. Preventing deadly diseases among poor children by expanding access to vaccines and developing vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are central priorities. Other major efforts include extending unprecedented opportunities for learning by bringing computers with Internet access to every eligible public library in the U.S. and Canada and providing scholarships to academically talented minority students in the U.S. with severe financial need through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program ( For complete information and grant guidelines, visit (1) Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, operates in most countries outside of the United States as Merck Sharp & Dohme.


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