What better way to catch international attention than to have the richest man in the world and the most powerful ex-president in recent history as your messengers? That's what Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and ex-prez Bill Clinton hope will happen during their AIDS mission to Africa, which began on Tuesday in South Africa, one of the regions of the world hardest hit by the pandemic.
The pair met on Tuesday with South African President Thabo Mbeki to discuss HIV/AIDS issues in the kickoff to a weeklong trip in which they will visit five African countries and announce a series of initiatives that cover everything from the push for low-cost AIDS treatments to a deal announced Tuesday for Microsoft to offer cheap computers and Internet connections to South Africans.
(Update: Clinton and Gates have completed their journey to Africa — don't miss gripping video footage with Gideon Yago, plus photos and the former president's tour diaries. And for even more accounts from the road, go to ClintonFoundation.org.)
Clinton is also slated to announce the creation of the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative during the trip, a group that will work with African governments to establish a unified program to address the issues that are holding up economic development in the countries where it will work, according to a spokesperson.
Mbeki told the dynamic duo that health issues are one of the biggest challenges facing Africa and he's hoping that the world's largest charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will help alleviate some of those issues. "[Gates] has the passion and the experience to address the problem," Mbeki said, according to the South African Press Association. HIV/AIDS has infected 5.5 million of South Africa's population of 47 million.
The 6-year-old Gates foundation is focused on, among other things, providing life-saving medicines and technology to the world's poorest countries in an attempt to help alleviate or eradicate diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Gates and Clinton were scheduled to visit the mountain kingdom of Lesotho on Wednesday (July 12) and then travel on to Malawi, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
MTV is developing a show in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the first HIV diagnosis — and the first generation to have come of age along with it. The half-hour show will be shaped by viewer-generated content. Show us your story right here.
For more on Bill Gates, check out the feature "The Notorious B.G."