Microsoft Corp co–founder Bill Gates (R) receives the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize from India’s President Pratibha PatilMicrosoft co–founder Bill Gates has urged India to intensify its AIDS awareness drive and increase its spending on healthcare.
Gates, who received the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development from India’s President Smt. Pratibha Patil on Saturday in recognition for his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said India faces “some of the toughest health problems in the world” and should drastically increase health spending to eliminate the most persisting diseases plaguing its people.
“The Indian government must accelerate its progress toward its health spending targets, so that innovations benefit the poor people who really need them, ” Gates said on Saturday.
According to Gates, the country “bears a massive burden of disease” it has to make a “major investment of effort and money” to address the most pervasive health problems.
Gates said India had the “most entrepreneurial technologically sophisticated and innovative societies” and the potential to overcome health problems like polio and AIDS in the coming years.
“India bears a massive burden of disease. But in the next five years, it can make more progress on health than it has made in any other five–year–period in its history,” Gates, whose foundation has committed nearly $1 billion for health and development projects in India, said.
“Our foundation is committed to working with India over the long haul on a variety of critical health issues, ” he said.
According to Gates, the proven ability to innovate and a keen appreciation for the urgency of the situation – two advantages together could trigger major breakthroughs in health.
“The phenomenal progress we have seen in India is one of the main reasons for our optimism,” he said, adding the National Rural Health Mission was already spurring innovation at the local level and generating impressive results. The proposed National Urban Health Mission could do the same, he added.
Gates, who has pledged up to $338 million to Avahan an initiative to reduce the spread of AIDS in India, also praised the Indian government “for its leadership on HIV prevention, which can be a model for the rest of the world.”
“Prevention is absolutely essential for fighting HIV, and will ultimately save millions of lives,” Gates, who discussed with India’s Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad the country’s comprehensive response to HIV/AIDS and other prevention and health awareness programs, said.
India is home to 2.5 million HIV positive people including over 70,000 children below the age of 15.
Conferring the award on Gates, President Pratibha Patil said that like Indira Gandhi, the philanthropist, too, has seen the “road ahead. ”
“When a technological giant like Bill Gates joins the cause of changing the lives of people through philanthropy, we have reasons to be optimistic, ” Patil said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoped that Gates’ transformation from a successful businessman to a philanthropist would inspire many business tycoons in India to take up similar work. “More of our business leaders and our wealthy will learn to share their wealth with the people of their country, by investing in their education, their health and the care of the elderly and the disabled,” Singh said.
“Others have also showed the world how to create wealth from knowledge, but very few before him (Gates) have worked as hard and as selflessly as he has to share that wealth with marginalized people and also create knowledge in that process, ” he said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi said that Gates’ “extraordinary success as a businessman has been overtaken by your even more extraordinary impact as a philanthropist.”
Gates is being recognized for “pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health.” Previous winners of the Indira Gandhi peace prize include international aid group Medecins sans Frontieres, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and former United States President Jimmy Carter.
The Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed approximately $11.95 billion in grants for global health, was the recipient of the Gandhi Prize in 2007. Besides AIDS, the foundation also focuses on immunization, maternal and newborn health and tobacco control efforts.
Source: International Business Times