A couple of weeks back, I wondered whether the WHO’s railing against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was just sour grapes. Last week, The Economist concluded that the wine has indeed turned to vinegar.
One of WHO malaria overlord Arata Kochi’s complaints was that the Gates Foundation is becoming a monopoly, squeezing out discussion and debate. Scientists are so desperate for Gates money, Kochi suggests, that they won’t speak truth to (purchasing) power. It happens that I am in Bangkok just now, at the invitation of the Gates Foundation’s HIV division, to talk about Foundation’s future contribution to HIV prevention. The handful of people invited are all independent thinkers with a lot of coalface experience researching and preventing HIV. None of us are shy, and none of us are after Gates funding. We chewed over our failure to deal effectively with HIV and spat out the unwillingness of governments from rich countries and poor countries alike to do helpful things on a large scale for sex workers, drug injectors and gay guys.
The Gates Foundation is not accountable to those pussy-footing governments, and it has lots of money. The WHO dances to the tunes played by the 192 governments that sit on its board, and it is skint. Which organisation do you think is most likely to be able to do what’s needed to stamp out HIV?
Update on the malaria debate: Kochi says Bill and Melinda Gates are unrealistic to call for the eradication of malaria. Setting unrealistic goals in not helpful, he maintains. I agree with him. But then I don’t work for an organisation that said (in 1977) that it would achieve “Health for All” by the year 2000.