Friday, July 21, 2006
Bill Gates, one of the founders of Microsoft (the company controlling most of our computers), has announced that his charitable foundation will invest several hundred million US$ in the development of an AIDS vaccine. This has been lauded by some who are not usually among the fans of Gates and his company. Surely, from many vantage points Gates' initiative is laudable. Yet, some questions should reasonably be asked. For instance, if the same amount of money was poured into primary care and treatment of currently treatable illnesses killing millions of lives in developing countries, many lives could right now be preserved. Is his spending strategy the most efficient way to spend money in this area? Another question that can also reasonably be asked is this: what is this investment telling us about the lack of other players' investments (other developed countries, the international community) in major killer diseases prevalent amongst the world's poor? Is it a morally acceptable status quo that without major private donors no serious R&D investment dealing with such diseases would be available? Probably not.