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Wall Street Journal
Gates Contributes $50 Million To Help AIDS Fund Narrow Gap
Marilyn Chase, Staff Reporter
July 16, 2004
BANGKOK -- Addressing a major funding gap, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it will give a $50 million grant to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Separately, doctors at the XV International AIDS Conference in Thailand urged pharmaceutical companies to provide at least two years of care for patients who volunteer for drug studies after the studies end.

The new grant by the foundation of software entrepreneur Bill Gates boosts its total giving to the Global Fund to date to $150 million.

Helene Gayle, head of the Gates Foundation AIDS programs, called on donors around the world to increase their commitments to the Global Fund.

The Geneva-based Global Fund, a partnership of governments, the private sector and other groups, says it lags far behind the fund-raising targets it must meet to stay on course.

Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund, said the Gates Foundation gift comes at a critical moment and "will help leverage further funds from additional donors." The fund supports 300 projects in 130 countries.

Prior to the new Gates grant, Global fund donors had committed $3.4 billion to the Global Fund through the end of 2004, the Gates Foundation said. Current pledges for 2005 to 2008 total just $2 billion -- far short of the $3.6 billion that the Global Fund says it needs in 2005 alone.

Dr. Gayle, in announcing the Gates Foundation's new grant, nudged the U.S. government -- already the Global Fund's largest single donor -- to boost its contributions as much as the law allows. U.S. law limits the country's contribution to no more than one-third of the total annual contributions to the Global Fund, or about $550 million for 2004.

In a statement, Tommy Thompson, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, who also chairs the Global Fund, praised the Gates gift as "a real boost." Mr. Thompson didn't attend this year's AIDS Conference. Protests at the conference two years ago in Barcelona, Spain were vehement. On Wednesday, demonstrators shouted down the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Randall Tobias, who came to Bangkok representing the Bush administration. The protesters demanded greater U.S. support for the Global Fund, and the fulfillment of billions of dollars in promised support to fight AIDS.

The AIDS conference, which was to close today, has focused on issues of access to treatment and care in Africa, Asia and throughout the developing world. Among many ethical issues is what happens to volunteers for big drug company studies in Asia and Africa after the studies are over.

The International AIDS Society, the co-sponsor of the Bangkok conference, late yesterday issued guidelines suggesting pharmaceutical companies agree to provide a minimum of two years of continuing care after the end of a clinical trial. That care could include supplies of a new treatment, or standard care as prescribed by the World Health Organization treatment guidelines.

"Two years is a floor, not a ceiling," said Robert L. Mallett, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Pfizer Inc., which is among companies supporting the guidelines. "Some companies have decided to do more," he said adding that Pfizer will support the care of its study volunteers for "as long as a patient continues to benefit, or until something better comes along."

Write to Marilyn Chase at marilyn.chase@wsj.com

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