US business magnate Bill Gates speaks at the International Aids Conference at the ICC in Durban on Wednesday.
US business magnate Bill Gates speaks at the International Aids Conference at the ICC in Durban on Wednesday.

#AIDS2016: Ratchet up efficiency, Gates advises

By Kerry Cullinan Time of article published Jul 21, 2016

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Durban - If we're going to treat twice as many people with HIV, we need to double our efficiency because we’re not going to get double the money, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has warned.

Speaking at a special session of the International Aids Conference in Durban on Wednesday, Gates – whose foundation is the biggest private funder of efforts to end HIV – said the world economy was under pressure.

“There are a lot of distractions – the economic turmoil, the Syrian crisis – to keep us from achieving our goal of an Aids-free world,” said Gates.

“Research funding has stayed at the same level for the past eight or nine years… but funding will determine when we get (to an Aids-free world),” said the Microsoft founder.

One of the biggest challenges was how to protect young Africans. In 15 years’ time, 40 percent of the world’s young people would be living in Africa – over 280 million people.

“This will be the largest generation in history entering the age where they are going to be most at risk,” he said.

The two innovations that offered the most hope to end Aids, said Gates, were a vaccine and long-acting drugs.

“The greatest possibility for ending Aids is a vaccine,” he said, but cautioned that even if a successful vaccine were found immediately, it would still take time before it could be offered to the public.

“Besides a vaccine, the super-long-acting drugs are super-interesting for prevention and treatment,” he said.

Trials of long-acting injectionable ARVs (cabotegravir and rilpivirine) given once every four to six months had shown to be as safe and effective as oral ARVs. Drug companies were also looking at long-acting ARV implants.

Praising South Africa for its progress since the last Aids conference in the country, in 2000, Gates said he first visited South Africa in 2007 and “realised that computers alone were not going to solve the world’s problems”.

After seeing the impact of Aids, Gates and his wife Melinda decided to devote most of the funds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to addressing the world’s health issues.

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