The Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation, Merck & Co., Inc. 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
"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.
"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
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/private
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
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
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 (www.gmsp.org). For complete
information and grant guidelines, visit www.gatesfoundation.org.