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UN officials hail $100 million gift by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to AIDS fund

UN officials hail $100 million gift by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to AIDS fund

United Nations officials today welcomed the announcement by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of a $100 million contribution to the Global AIDS and Health Fund - the largest private donation it has received so far - and expressed hope that other donors would soon follow suit.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had proposed the Fund last April in Abuja, hailed the Gates Foundation's "groundbreaking commitment," calling it a "cornerstone of the emerging global effort to reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic."

Noting that HIV/AIDS is a worldwide crisis that has already killed nearly 22 million people, the Secretary-General stressed that the scourge could be defeated only through a truly global partnership, bringing together governments, corporations, foundations, civil society and individuals. "The leadership shown by Bill and Melinda Gates today will not only serve as a powerful example to other private donors and to Governments; in its own right, it will probably also save millions of lives," he said.

Echoing this view, Dr. Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, commended the Foundation, noting that its contribution demonstrated the emergence of a "diverse and international partnership -- which is surely the only way we will defeat this epidemic and reverse its terrible consequences." Dr. Piot urged additional contributors to emulate the example set by the Gates Foundation, saying he hoped the announcement "will catalyze other donors, including other private foundations, to channel major contributions to the Global Fund."

Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the importance of the Gates Foundation's contribution far exceeded its dollar value. "It is a recognition of the scale of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that threatens individuals, families, countries and economies - and the need to build global and broad-based partnerships to address this crisis," she said. Ms. Bellamy also expressed hope that other donors would follow the "splendid example" of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mark Malloch Brown, said the donation signalled a new phase in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. "At a stroke, Gates has widened the constituency base of the campaign," he said, adding that the contribution "is also a powerful signal to other foundations, businesses, non-profit groups and individuals that they can and must get involved in this epic battle."

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, said support for the Global Fund indicated a new approach to combating the pandemic. "There is a realization that global problems need global solutions," she said.