Bill Gates donates $100M to AIDS research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable foundation established by Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and his wife, have announced a six-year US$100 million donation to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

IAVI is an international non-profit organization that is working toward the development and distribution of preventative vaccines against AIDS, and the money will serve two purposes, said the group in a statement. It will go toward IAVI’s vaccine development work plan, which is expected to cost $550 million through 2007, and the group hopes publicity surrounding the donation will also help attract support from others.

The donation, which is the foundation’s third and by far largest to the New York-based group, was announced as world business and government leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum conference. The foundation previously donated $1.5 million in 1998 and $25 million in 1999.

“We should remember that a death from AIDS in Africa brings with it just as much pain as a death of one of our own family or friends. These are not just statistics, they are people like us,” said Bill Gates in a statement. “The leaders gathered here should go away from Davos with a unanimous and absolute commitment to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. A vaccine is the only way to end AIDS for all time.”

At the same time, the IAVI also announced a three-year, $5 million donation from Yahoo Inc. The Internet portal site operator will fund a campaign across its own Web sites to raise awareness of and funds for the IAVI. Yahoo said it represents the largest single grant the company has made to any foundation.

The donations come as the IAVI is preparing to begin clinical trials of the first AIDS vaccine designed for Africa. The product of a collaboration between teams at the Medical Research Council’s Human Immunology Unit at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the trial just received government approval and will begin shortly, the IAVI said in a statement.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, in New York, can be contacted at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle, can be contacted at Yahoo, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at