Project: The African AIDS Pandemic

Partnership one of a kind

by John Carr

Sekgoma Memorial is the newest hospital in Botswana.
Sekgoma Memorial is the newest hospital in Botswana.
Located in Serowe, it will soon house a nursing school.

A partnership between the government of Botswana, Merck, and Bill Gates' Foundation has provided the funding for the first and only program in the world that offers free antiretroviral medicine to the people of Botswana.

Botswana was fortunate to be chosen by the Gates Foundation to be the recipient of several billion dollars in financial aid. In 2001, the Gates Foundation and Merck teamed up, both donating $50 million to jump start the program.

Botswana was chosen as an easy test country. With a population of 1.7 million and a stable government, it made sense to invest efforts here. In the fall of 2003, Bill Gates visited the capital city of Gaborone, Botswana. There he spoke with HIV/AIDS officials. He met with women who had previously been prostitutes. They sang and danced a safe sex skit for him.

In July 2003, President Bush met with President Mogae of Botswana at the Gaborone International Convention Centre in Gaborone, Botswana. They discussed the fight against HIV/AIDS, among other important sub-Saharan African issues. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have given Africa, namely Botswana, millions in financial aid over the past few years. Signs for the Gates Foundation can be found throughout Botswana. The people there are very appreciative of Bill Gates and the United States aid. Nurse Mugobi, working in a private clinic, said "Bill Gates is a very good man. He has given so much to us." That opinion is not unique.

Only with this financial aid was Botswana able to conduct such a program. The economy of Botswana could not support it alone, especially since HIV/AIDS was destroying the economy. HIV/AIDS attacks economies much harder than other illnesses because it attacks the most productive age group and guarantees fatality.

Since diamond mining fuels the Botswana economy at 33 percent of the GDP, a decrease in mining labor force is threatening to the economy. The sickening and death of young workers will decrease economic growth and output. It is important to realize this group actually has a higher percentage of HIV/AIDS than the overall country statistic reports because it is this group that is most at risk. Other businesses suffer from absenteeism and costs associated with hiring new employees, including training and recruitment.