Press Release

UN Population Fund Hails Gates Foundation’s $57 Million Grant to Protect African Youth against HIV/AIDS

4 April 2000
Author: UNFPA

UNITED NATIONS, New York - A $57 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will tremendously strengthen efforts to protect young people in four African countries against HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced today.

The Foundation is funding a five-year initiative to expand national campaigns in Botswana, Ghana, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania that will educate youth about preventing HIV/AIDS and ensure that they can protect themselves. The government of each country, in partnership with UNFPA, and two United States-based international non-governmental organizations, PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), Pathfinder International and local groups will implement the programmes.


press conference

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has once again shown its enormous commitment to young people in developing countries and to halting the devastating AIDS pandemic,” declared UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Nafis Sadik. “This grant puts resources where the need is most urgent: protecting the most vulnerable and safeguarding each country’s future. The programmes it supports will also serve as models for other hard-hit countries and international aid efforts. And it will help the international community move towards its stated goal of reducing HIV/AIDS infections in the most affected countries by 25 per cent by 2005.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS is ravaging families, communities and national economies, half the population is under age 20. Half of all new cases of HIV infection are among young people aged 15-24. In several countries, girls aged 15-19 are five or six times more likely to be HIV-positive than boys their own age, indicating a critical need to empower adolescent girls, in particular, with the information and means to avoid infection. Currently very few young people in the countries concerned are being reached with HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.

The four countries were chosen based on need and on their demonstrated commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention among youth. Field staff of UNFPA, PATH and Pathfinder have developed specific projects at the request of the four governments and the collaboration will include both public and private organizations. Efforts will vary in each country according to local conditions, but all will include education programmes in both rural and urban areas, peer counselling for young people in and out of school, accessible reproductive health services (provided in youth centres, for example), and job training for disadvantaged youth. A regional support network will facilitate the sharing of national experiences.

“This grant is a vital complement to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s other assistance in the area of disease prevention, including its support for the development of an AIDS vaccine,” stated Dr. Sadik. “The funds will allow us to apply locally tested methods for protecting young people against AIDS on a national scale. Other countries in the region will also be able to learn from these examples.”

“UNFPA is delighted to have Pathfinder and PATH as its partners,” Dr. Sadik added. Both organizations have long experience in helping developing countries to run reproductive health programmes. Pathfinder is respected for its training and expertise in service delivery, while PATH has pioneered adolescent health programmes that emphasize behaviour change communications and advocacy as well as development of appropriate technologies. Both Pathfinder, with headquarters in Boston, and PATH, with headquarters in Seattle, are previous recipients of Gates Foundation support and have extensive experience working in sub-Saharan Africa.

"We warmly congratulate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for this extremely generous grant," said Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "The grant targets countries which have demonstrated strong political leadership to reversing the epidemic, and is an excellent example of the tremendous leverage that foundations can play in moving forward an expanded response to the epidemic."

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UNFPA helps developing countries to improve reproductive health and family planning services on the basis of individual choice, and to formulate population policies in support of efforts towards sustainable development. The United States Committee for UNFPA, a non-profit organization, facilitated the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant. Contributions to UNFPA can be made through the Committee’s Web site.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people’s lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based Foundation has an asset base of $21.8 billion. Preventing deadly diseases among poor children by expanding access to vaccines, and developing vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, are central priorities. Other major efforts include extending unprecedented opportunities for learning by bringing computers with Internet access to every eligible library in the United States and Canada, and providing scholarships to academically talented minority students in the United States with severe financial need through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. For complete information and grant guidelines, visit www.gatesfoundation.org.

Contact Information:

William A. Ryan
Tel.: +66 2 288 2446
Email: ryanw@unfpa.org

Abubakar Dungus
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5031
Fax: +1 (212) 557-6416
Email: dungus@unfpa.org