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Mbeki spoke with Gates, but will anything come of it?


Dissidents delighted, but no sign of change

No need to speculate what would happen if Thabo Mbeki was able to sit down and brief Bill Gates about his doubts on Western medicines for HIV∫AIDS. A correspondent just sent us a Webclip from the South African Mail-Guardian, headed Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic – Johannesburg, South Africa 12 July 2006 09:11.

So HIV∫AIDS critics have got their wish. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has had his chance to plant a seed of doubt in Bill Gates’ mind concerning HIV∫AIDS in this meeting a week ago. Whether or not anything took is of course not going show up in public for a while. But it seems impossible that Gates wasn’t tipped off by Mbeki, and HIV∫AIDS critics are excited by that.

“He has the passion and the experience to address the problem,” Mbeki was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association.

Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested billions of dollars to fight diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria, said he was “excited” to have the opportunity to take up the issue with Mbeki.

Gates is in South Africa to attend a Microsoft-sponsored forum of African government and business leaders on ways technology can improve competitiveness on the impoverished continent.

Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic/Johannesburg, South Africa on 11 July 2006:

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Bill Gates, Mbeki discuss Aids pandemic

Johannesburg, South Africa

12 July 2006 09:11

Microsoft chairperson Bill Gates flew to Pretoria on Tuesday (Jul 11) to discuss the Aids pandemic with President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki, who has drawn criticism for his sluggish response to the virus that has infected up to six million South Africans, told journalists that health is one of the “principle challenges” facing Africa and he wanted to discuss how Gates’s foundation could help.

“He has the passion and the experience to address the problem,” Mbeki was quoted as saying by the South African Press Association.

Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested billions of dollars to fight diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria, said he was “excited” to have the opportunity to take up the issue with Mbeki.

Gates is in South Africa to attend a Microsoft-sponsored forum of African government and business leaders on ways technology can improve competitiveness on the impoverished continent.

Gates told the conference on Tuesday that Microsoft is working with its partners to train more than 45-million people in Africa in information and communication technology by 2010. The company’s efforts include a new initiative with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to support the growth of tourism in developing countries.

“By providing more affordable access to technology and helping partners build strong local software economies, Microsoft can help create knowledge-based economies in Africa that generate new jobs and offer new opportunities for growth, prosperity and innovation,” he said.

Also attending the conference is former United States president Bill Clinton, who underlined the importance of technology in helping Africa achieve its development goals.

“Technology has expanded opportunities of millions of people around the world and — whether expanding access to information, education or health care or increasing the collective power of individuals — it has an important role to play in creating a thriving, competitive Africa,” Clinton said. — Sapa-AP

Our correspondent excitedly writes that he believes that a recent post on this site with encouraging views about Gates was by Thabo Mbeki himself, and says “If this was indeed Mbeki himself, we were very fortunate to have received any communications from him at all. This July 11th meeting is the single biggest and best news that we could get.”

That Gates hasn’t changed his tune in any way since doesn’t worry him. “Of course Gates has to do something to be seen as placating the mainstream paradigm. Gates is not a fool. He is not about to let himself be targeted at this point as a denialist or looney tune, or create a public uproar, as our forum is yet perceived in most of the public eye as the lunatic fringe, although this is changing very fast, and we have all played a big part in changing it. Gates is smart. Very smart, verry verry smart. Looks like we have got Buffet and Gates after all! I see light at the end of the tunnel, and I don’t believe it is an oncoming train this time. Maybe we owe Gates an apology. I will sleep better tonight.”

In line with this reasonable prediction that even if Gates did take a Mbeki tip off to heart he is going to conceal it in the short run, perhaps dissidents needn’t be disappointed that Gates’ only reported remark after the meeting was that “the country’s progress in rolling out anti-AIDS drugs as “disappointingly slow”.

South Africa: Mbeki And Gates Meet On Aids Issues

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UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

July 12, 2006

Posted to the web July 12, 2006

Johannesburg

Computer software billionaire Bill Gates met with South African President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday in the capital, Pretoria, to discuss issues relating to HIV/AIDS.

Mbeki, who has drawn criticism for his sluggish response to the pandemic, admitted that health was one of the “principle challenges” facing South Africa and the continent as a whole, and said he wanted to discuss how Gates could help.

Gates described the country’s progress in rolling out anti-AIDS drugs as “disappointingly slow”.

The local Business Day newspaper quoted him as saying, “Everyone would like to see more patients on treatment … in this country a lot of the credit for progress goes to the activists.”

Gates said he was willing to share whatever ideas the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organisation, might have on improved HIV prevention, treatment and care.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

No doubt from now on HIV∫AIDS revisionists will be reading the tea leaves daily, however, with a strong bias in the optimistic direction. Hank Barnes, for example, noticed one possible sign buried today in the Washington Post piece about the selective giving of the Foundation. The first part of this suggested to him that just possibly Melinda might be backing away from antiretrovirals:

In explaining why the foundation has not invested heavily in delivering lifesaving antiretroviral drugs for AIDS, for example, Melinda Gates said that only governments have enough money to provide such costly treatments.

But no such luck, judging from the rest of the mention:

An exception is Botswana, a sparsely populated country where the Gates Foundation has helped pay for some such drugs.

“Our role has to be a catalyst to get government funding into programs,” she said recently during a stop in the tiny southern African country of Lesotho. “We don’t begin to have enough money to [buy] antiretrovirals for every person who needs them today in Africa.”

Largess With Clear Limits

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In Africa and Elsewhere, Gates Foundation Takes Focused Approach to Giving

By Craig Timberg

Washington Post Foreign Service

Sunday, July 23, 2006; A12

KHAYELITSHA, South Africa — Bill and Melinda Gates came to the cramped tin shack of Nkosebaca Thingathinga one day this month to understand how the 61-year-old man had contracted tuberculosis — a major focus of research for the couple’s foundation — an astounding four times.

But as they asked the man about his sickness, Khanyisa Thingathinga, 20, announced she had something else to talk about. “Since you are here,” she said, “are you going to help our father? We are suffering. Are you going to help him have a right house?”

A “right house,” she later explained, would be one with cinder-block walls rather than flimsy sheets of metal, a roof that kept out the rain and more than three rooms to hold 10 people. Even better would be a way out of Khayelitsha, a crowded and disease-ridden slum near Cape Town.

Yet here in Khayelitsha, as in similarly impoverished areas throughout the world, the almost unfathomable wealth of the Gateses met the reality of unlimited need. And though they did give the Thingathingas money that will pay for new walls and a roof, there will be no new house, no new rooms, no new address as a result of their interaction with a foundation that defines itself not just by what it does, but by what it chooses not to do.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world’s richest charity, with resources that eventually will double to $60 billion because of a gift last month from famed investor Warren Buffett. The Gateses say they will also eventually give “the bulk” of the rest of their wealth, estimated at more than $40 billion, to the foundation. [Both Melinda Gates and Buffett are on the board of The Washington Post Co.]

Despite its unprecedented resources, the foundation tends to avoid the broad-based approach of traditional aid programs, putting relatively little money into such popular and immediate causes as job training, road building, schooling African children, easing famines or — aside from rare cases such as the Thingathingas — improving housing.

Even in the sphere of global public health, the foundation’s top focus, there are many things it avoids in favor of the development of potentially powerful new vaccines and drugs targeting the leading maladies in the poorest parts of the world.

Some of these are well-known — AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis. Some are obscure — Guinea worm, trypanosomiasis and cysticercosis, all parasitic diseases. But the more than $5 billion in grants devoted to global health so far reveal a striking faith in the transformative power of new technologies — a fact perhaps not surprising for a foundation created by Bill Gates, who revolutionized the computing world with a company started in a dorm room.

In explaining why the foundation has not invested heavily in delivering lifesaving antiretroviral drugs for AIDS, for example, Melinda Gates said that only governments have enough money to provide such costly treatments. An exception is Botswana, a sparsely populated country where the Gates Foundation has helped pay for some such drugs.

“Our role has to be a catalyst to get government funding into programs,” she said recently during a stop in the tiny southern African country of Lesotho. “We don’t begin to have enough money to [buy] antiretrovirals for every person who needs them today in Africa.”

The Gateses cut a striking image as they walked through Khayelitsha. With Bill Gates, 50, in a golfing shirt and baseball cap, and Melinda Gates, 41, in a khaki skirt and a navy blue top, they peered into the windows of dilapidated shops, squeezed past rusty shacks and attempted to skip over piles of dog waste. They chatted with many of the residents they came across, inquiring about their lives and the illnesses that diminish them.

Asked later that day why he was personally visiting Africa to investigate the foundation’s work instead of just sending staffers, Bill Gates said: “I don’t do that with software. Why would I do that with this?”

Like Bill Gates himself, the foundation has a taste for gee-whiz technology. Last year, despite only modest investments in ongoing food crises, it gave $36.8 million to researchers working to put more nutrients in such staple foods as cassavas, bananas, sorghum and rice. That same day, it gave $37.8 million to research ways to make vaccines that can be inhaled rather than injected. And $5 million went to learning how to keep malaria-spreading mosquitoes from smelling — and hence finding and biting — potential victims.

Officials point out that the foundation reflects Melinda Gates’s personality at least as much as her husband’s. The list of grants reveals a persistent attention to women’s issues, with major spending on reproductive health and cervical cancer. The Gateses, on their recent visit, each singled out foundation-funded research into vaginal microbicides, which they hope will give women new power to protect themselves against AIDS, as key to curbing the epidemic.

“If I had a magic bullet to accelerate something,” Bill Gates said during an interview, “it would be the microbicide.”

At a health clinic in Khayelitsha, Eric Goemaere of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said that the Gates Foundation should concentrate more on solving immediate problems, such as the devastating flight of doctors and nurses to rich countries, rather than focusing primarily on research whose results lie in the distant future. Doctors Without Borders was among the first groups to bring antiretrovirals to poor Africans, moving several steps ahead of most governments on the continent.

“You shouldn’t wait for a vaccine,” Goemaere said.

The Gates Foundation has made some major investments in projects with immediate impact, including more than $900 million — an amount exceeding the sum contributed by all the world’s governments combined — on the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. It has delivered vaccines to millions of poor children.

But the Gates-funded alliance has struggled in its efforts to accelerate the widespread deployment of potentially lifesaving vaccines against varieties of pneumonia and diarrhea. Delays in production and distribution have pushed back intended release dates in poor countries by several years.

Researcher Mary Moran, who last year co-wrote a London School of Economics report on the development of drugs targeting diseases mainly affecting the poor, said the Gates Foundation had taken the lead in reviving the field with its grants.

Moran, speaking from Sydney, predicted that six or seven major new drugs for malaria and tuberculosis are likely to become available by 2010, thanks to Gates money. Several vaccines, though less certain, may become available in the years soon after that, she said.

“The amount of money they have will not begin to touch the world’s problems. So high-risk, high-return probably suits their mind-set,” she said. “And no one else will do it.”

Yet she warned that the foundation’s reluctance to get involved in the complicated realm of providing public health care in Africa — with its high costs, mixed results and distracting politics — could eventually limit its power to improve the health of the world’s poor.

“That’s the problem with a technology-led solution. There’s a lot of medicines out there that aren’t used. There’s only so far they can go,” Moran said, referring to the Gateses. “Then they need the public health partners.”

© 2006 The Washington Post Company.

Very little has changed so far, it seems, in the Gateses stance towards AIDS:

The Gateses, on their recent visit, each singled out foundation-funded research into vaginal microbicides, which they hope will give women new power to protect themselves against AIDS, as key to curbing the epidemic.

“If I had a magic bullet to accelerate something,” Bill Gates said during an interview, “it would be the microbicide.”

The trouble is that their personal visits to suffering villagers are not going to tell them anything about who’s right or wrong in HIV∫AIDS treatment, given that wholesale reinterpretation of symptoms and treatment effects which is HIV∫AIDS.

The Gateses cut a striking image as they walked through Khayelitsha. With Bill Gates, 50, in a golfing shirt and baseball cap, and Melinda Gates, 41, in a khaki skirt and a navy blue top, they peered into the windows of dilapidated shops, squeezed past rusty shacks and attempted to skip over piles of dog waste. They chatted with many of the residents they came across, inquiring about their lives and the illnesses that diminish them.

Asked later that day why he was personally visiting Africa to investigate the foundation’s work instead of just sending staffers, Bill Gates said: “I don’t do that with software. Why would I do that with this?”

Someone has to tell them that in science, a true picture doesn’t emerge from anecdote. In fact, one of the biggest flaws in the HIV∫AIDS picture in Africa is that most people now involved are most convinced by the sudden quick improvement they see in very ill patients when they are given the current drugs.

They view this as proof of the correctness of the theory that HIV is causing all the illnesses now labeled HIV∫AIDS in Africa. But the literature gives other reasons, much more in line with traditional mainstream science.

But the Gateses, as they wander kindly through squalor manfully resisting the temptation to do too much, will be wearing the spectacles that these firm believers will give them, amd these spectacles will frame everything the Gateses see.

9 Responses to “Mbeki spoke with Gates, but will anything come of it?”

  1. SA Says:

    Now perhaps I don’t look like such a naive victim of the AIDS establishement? Just days ago, I suggested that the Gates were not necessarily duped by the AIDS industry. Now you have here an extended post that seems to suggest that I was right, after you castigated me somewhat for not knowing what I was talking about. Well — surprise. Perhaps I do know what I’m talking about.

  2. Dan Says:

    Truthseeker,I’ll take optimism on this issue anywhere I can find it. If there are positive developments going on behind the scenes, I’m happy to hear about them – even if nothing seems to have changed at all on the surface.If the Gates’ are capable of critical thought on this issue, and Mr. Mbeki isn’t handicapped by media portrayals, then I apologize for being overly cynical and jaded. I’m certainly not involved in this issue because I’m addicted to hopelessness. I want to see positive change. Thank you for the recent posts.

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    Just days ago, I suggested that the Gates were not necessarily duped by the AIDS industry. Now you have here an extended post that seems to suggest that I was right, after you castigated me somewhat for not knowing what I was talking about

    Sorry, the comment was rather misleading in the way it was worded, and there was no intention of saying you didn’t know what you were talking about. As far as we are concerned what is being said here was and is pure speculation, just thinking out loud exploring possibilities, and in this case we were only arguing that even if someone inside the organization saw the light, Gates was insulated by a phalanx of lieutenants or main advisors on HIV∫AIDS who would protect him from the alternate view, and had no reason to question their advice. If you had or have information to the contrary, that’s great. Now we learn he surely was tipped off in some fashion by Mbeki, which opens up possibilities.

    So far, however, the public statements coming from the Gateses are the same mainstream homilies as before, and the $275 million expansion of the vaccine hunt has gone forward undisturbed, so there is no evidence yet that anything has changed. Of course Gates is not going to reassess in public, but you might look for some signs of hedging while Gates has his staff look into it.

    All in all, you can speculate on both sides of the case. Naturally dissidents will find reasons for optimism, but is optimism yet justified? All that can be said is that all that can be done has been done, in this particular case, and we have to wait to see how it plays out. In the whole affair there is surely a tipping point somewhere, and Gates’ conversion is one candidate for that. With Harper’s in the bag and Mbeki meeting Gates, and the campaign on the Web winning victories recently, it seems to us that there is real cause for optimism.

    What is surely crucial is whether the success of the HIV∫AIDS critics on the Web in routing their lesser opponents such as the Gallo group and John Moore is covered by the mainstream media, and there are some signs of this now, with Dr. B receiving some interesting enquiries.

  4. Michael Says:

    I think it is crucial for all of us to keep our eyes on the goal, and remain optimistic. All change is a process, not an event. Endeavors of change, personal or public, require 3 steps forward, and at times 2 steps back, before the next 3 steps forward. Nkosi! (thank you!) to Thabo Mbeki, Bill Gates, and to all of our brothers united beside us in Africa, and the very same thanks to all of those involved here through the many years, in our common struggle to advance truth and integrity, dignity and mutual respect. Nkosi!Thank you all!

  5. SA Says:

    Just think what might happen if the largest amount of money with the largest numer of investigators ($278 million, 16 different groups) fails to produce a vaccine. Bill Gates may not be in the position to buck the establishment now, but if that were to happen, and I think we all know it will, then…..Also pay attention to Gates and his interest in microbicides, which, we should remember, if they can be proven safe, will also kill some major killers like chlamydia, gonhorrea, and syphillis. And do not forget that two major endeavors of the Global Health Initiative are to eradicate both malaria and tuberculosis. These are all signs for hope. Change of paradigm comes from within. For now, we must wait and see.

  6. HankBarnes Says:

    I’m cautiously optimistic on all this stuff. The key is too keep pressing the issue.I profess no expertise about Africa, but I feel comfortable making the following points:1. Western pharmaceutical companies view Africans as customers, not patients.2. All AIDS activist groups associated with or funded by pharmaceutical companies are part of the problem, not the solution.3. It would be nice if the West asked the leaders of Africa what they needed, instead of telling them what they need.4. In my humble opinion, clean water and nutritious food are fundamentally more critical than exotic and expensive drugs to “treat” exotic and elusive germs.Hank Barnes

  7. Truthseeker Says:

    All change is a process, not an event.

    Until the tipping point, Michael, don’t you think? Then the landslide…

    What is the right thing to do? How about this for Gates (or Buffett?) Hire Peter Duesberg as a consultant, at financial levels that will allow him to continue his research, which mainstream distinguished researchers and science writers all agree is of very great promise?

    If that minimum rational and decent move cannot be afforded by a $60 billion foundation, how about giving Duesberg $100,000 now to sit down with Gates, and also agree to give him $1 million for every $50 million of worthless AIDS research eventually saved the Foundation, if that turns out to be the case?

    Gates meets with Duesberg. Why on earth not get it from the horse’s mouth? In this case, a scientist whose social credentials as well as scientific are well established, and have never been challenged, so no one has to be afraid he will bite.

    All this second hand sourcing is absurd for everybody, let alone the richest man in the world. Ask the horse. Ask Peter H. Duesberg to lunch.

  8. Michael Says:

    Looks to me like the tipping point began when Mbeki first signed on. Everything has increased to an ever increasing landslide since that time with ever increasing speed and fury.As far as Dr. Duesberg is concerned, He certainly should get at least a consultation and a lunch with Gates. I don’t know for sure, but I believe Peter might prefer to have his cancer research funded instead of wasting any more time on a theory of HIV and AIDS that he de-bunked 20 years ago, as cancer is actually a much more pressing issue here in the West than HIV/AIDS. Neither Duesberg nor Science need to prove HIV does not cause AIDS. Science has never proven HIV does cause AIDS in the first place.

  9. Truthseeker Says:

    I believe Peter might prefer to have his cancer research funded Of course. And he should in justice also be paid by someone for having to waste his life and research time by being forced to study a false claim for so long out of honesty and public spirit.When elected Emperor we intend to fine the HIV∫AIDS exploiters half their past salaries and entire profit for the duration and hand it over to Duesberg. Heck, they won’t need the money if they are sent where they deserve.

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