Magazine article Newsweek International

Bill and Melinda Gates: 'The Tools to Save Lives'

Magazine article Newsweek International

Bill and Melinda Gates: 'The Tools to Save Lives'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Guo

Despite losing $18 billion of his net worth in the financial collapse, Bill Gates remains a self-described "impatient optimist"--about global health, that is. He stepped down as Microsoft CEO in June 2008 to devote more time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest philanthropic organization in the world. He and his wife, Melinda, met with NEWSWEEK's Jerry Guo in Washington last week before a major speech to policymakers on health programs. Excerpts:

There's been a backlash against the idea that more aid is always better. What do you say to the skeptics?

BILL: Of the countries that donors give aid to, there's a number, like Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand, that have graduated, and what we're left with is a very tough group. But health aid is probably the least controversial because it brings down population growth.

Are you concerned some of the funding you're asking for will end up empowering bad governments?

BILL: A vaccine is not that attractive to a dictator. Even in the toughest countries--Congo, Somalia--vaccinations work. If you're getting into building roads, you may have to stay away.

What is the most pressing health issue facing the developing world?

MELINDA: We have made amazing progress on the deaths of children under 5. But we have not made much progress on deaths in children within the first 30 days of life. Four million babies die every year in the first 30 days, three fourths in the first week. Saving these children would not be that difficult. A lot of it is cultural. We need to educate the mothers.

The HIV vaccine trial held in Thailand this September showed mixed results. How far away are we?

BILL: That was much better news than expected. We want to get vaccines for tuberculosis and malaria, and each of those can take a decade or more. …

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