Dear Mr Gates.

In case you don't see this, as there is a load of diversionary non-sequeteur  in terms of responses, below your column.

In this e-mail you will find your column, and below that, my response.  I doubt you will read it, but at least I can say that I have sent it to you.

Sincerely,

Hilary Butler.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/bill_gates/2007/06/fighting_aids_in_africa_preven.html

 

Hilary Butler,
25 Harrisville Road,
Tuakau 2121,
New Zealand.

Mr Gates.

You are someone who has, by proxy, banked thousands of dollars of my money over the years, so I would like to think I have a say in what is done with what is actually my money, not yours.

As someone who has also financialy supported two doctors in Zimbabwe, until Mugabe recently sent them both packing, I would like to share their insights to me, with you.

HIV wouldn't be a problem if women had the ability to make a living; eat a decent varied diet; buy shoes for their family; have clean water; have mosquito nets that aren't "tied" to vaccination programmes as GAVI now does;

HIV wouldn't be a problem if the people in Africa were entitled to the basic necessities of life, including sustainable power, water well, sanitation and were taught principles of sustainable organic agriculture, and given the skills to back it up.

The doctors I supported told me that HIV was a killer, primarily because of malnutrition, and the fact that lack of basic necessities forced people to do what they had to do, condoms or otherwise.

The doctors I supported also told me that having condoms was one thing, but using them was another, and that condoms in general are offensive to African men, not least because condoms are white and African crown jewels are black.  I'm sure that if condoms came in a black colour, white people might feel likewise.

The doctors I supported told me that the main infection problems they have to deal with ALL THE TIME are the secondary effects of malnutrition, in particular, TB, and measles, in spite of the fact that most of the people who got measles were vaccinated.

But in the area the doctors worked, the biggest problem they faced was foot injuries, where people stepped on sharp sticks or other protruding objects, and didn't get the cuts or punctures cleaned out, or couldn't, becuase they had to walk on cut bare feet.

When I asked what would be their priorities in terms of what is really needed in Africa, they said in this order:

Homes made the traditional way (modern methods like brick and corrugated iron roofing, leads to boiling in the summer, and freezing in the winter), basic education, decent Food, basic education, clean water, basic education, sanitation, basic education, shoes and clothes for cold nights, basic education, mosquito nets, education....

When I asked them about the activities of the Gates Foundation, and the programmes your Foundation invests in, there was a mixture of anger, and laughter.

They said that your advisors have very carefully cherry picked the issues, so that most of the money you invest goes straight into the immediate and long term bank accounts of the very companies you personally have shares in, and that nothing you do will have any basic impact upon the grass roots health and wellbeing of Africans.

Why?

Because if you deal with the issues that the Public Health reformers of the Western World dealt with in the 1800s, then much of what your Foundation is investing in, would be redundant.

I asked them what they would say to you, if they had the opportunity, and their answer was this:

Go to Africa without your minders.  Travel anonymously, and then you will see what the real problems in Africa are, and that your good intentions are very misplaced.  Because to really deal with AIDS, you have to deal with all the other things first, because if you deal with them, then you will never have to talk about prostitutes and condoms, except where women voluntarily take on such an occupation, and the majority of African women do not enter into prostitution voluntarily.

Go to Africa without your minders, and get some local translators to take you to talk to the Grand parents of the young children they are now forced to look after, because the generation of their parents has been lost.  Ask these grandparents how they see their future, and what they would see as solutions.

Go to Africa and live the life of Africans for two months, and then ask yourself if HIV drugs are really an appropriate mission for your Foundation.

Some might say that to stand for something is better than to stand for nothing.  I disagree.  If all you want to do is provide an expensive solution at the bottom of the cliff, then the Gates Foundation becomes part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Sincerely,

Hilary Butler.

How to beat Aids
Prevention is the key to fighting Aids in Africa: the G8 countries need to pledge new resources to fund it.
Bill Gates
On a recent visit to a clinic in Africa, my wife Melinda and I were shown a heartbreaking photograph of a patient named Jean - a very thin, frail man suffering from Aids. As we were staring at the photo, a smiling man walked into the clinic to greet us. It took us a minute to realize that it was Jean - now alive and healthy, thanks to powerful new Aids drugs.
Jean is not alone. According to a new report, the number of people on Aids treatment in developing countries doubled in the past year. This is largely due to the generosity of G8 countries, including the UK which has committed 359 million to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB, and malaria.
If everyone could personally meet an African whose life has been saved by Aids treatment, I think we would all be deeply proud of what has been accomplished, and push government leaders to build on this success. But treatment is only part of the equation. To secure Africa's future, we must also do a much better job of preventing the spread of the disease - especially among women.
The harsh mathematics of Aids proves the importance of prevention. For every person who gained access to treatment last year, six more were infected. Without slowing the number of infections, there's simply no way to keep up with the surging demand for treatment.
Sceptics say it's not possible to change the behavior that puts people at risk for HIV. I defy them to tell that to the sex workers we've met on our trips to Africa, who insist their customers use a condom every time.
Years of research have proven that Aids education, condoms, clean needles, and HIV testing can be highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV. A report to be issued next month by the Global HIV Prevention Working Group estimates that with a major expansion of prevention, we could cut the number of infections by two-thirds within a decade.
But it's shocking how few people - even those at extremely high risk - have access to these lifesaving prevention tools. Worldwide, most schoolchildren don't receive any Aids education. Just one in 10 adults in Africa has been tested for the virus. And only one in 10 pregnant women has access to inexpensive medications that can protect newborn babies from infection.
A top priority must be to address the prevention needs of women and girls, especially in Africa. Biologically, women are twice as likely as men to contract HIV. And many women - including those who are married - have little power to ensure their partners are faithful or use condoms.
A woman shouldn't need her partner's permission to save her own life. I am hopeful that science and technology will put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women. Promising research is underway on microbicides - gels that a woman could use to prevent HIV transmission. It is also possible that drugs used to treat HIV could be used to prevent infection. And of course, the development of an Aids vaccine would be the ultimate breakthrough.
In addition to developing new prevention methods, we must also address more fundamental issues that put women and girls at risk for HIV, such as sexual violence and social and economic inequities. It's no coincidence that girls with better access to education are also less likely to become infected.
We also can't forget the importance of HIV testing - which is essential to the success of both treatment and prevention. The World Health Organization should be commended for issuing new guidelines last week that call for greatly expanded access to testing.
Fortunately - thanks to the important efforts of Britain and other countries - fighting Aids in Africa is a priority at this week's G8 summit. Donor countries should take this opportunity to pledge new resources for effective prevention and treatment programmes, and help fast-track research on new prevention methods.
Controlling, and one day eliminating, Aids is the number-one priority for the Gates Foundation. We won't stop until there's an end to the disease, and we hope that the world's most powerful nations won't either.

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