The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a global, nonprofit organization working to speed the development and distribution of preventive AIDS vaccines, has received a $100 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The announcement of the grant, which follows previous grant awards of $1.5 million and $25 million from the foundation, was made by Bill Gates on Saturday at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland.
According to the World Health Organization and UNAIDS, AIDS killed 500,000 children and 2.5 million adults last year, making it the deadliest of the world's infectious disesases. Despite existing prevention efforts, an additional 600,000 children and 4.6 million adults were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 2000 The spread of the disease has reversed decades of social and economic progress in sub-Saharan Africa and is threatening to do the same in India, China, and the former Soviet Union.
"It is clear that a widely accessible preventive vaccine is the best hope for ending this pandemic," said Seth Berkley, M.D., president and chief executive officer of IAVI. "It is also clear that no single government or organization can or should attempt to achieve this goal alone. Our aim is to create a broad-based global movement in which the public and private sectors come together to overcome the scientific, political and economic challenges. That is why we welcome the foundation's challenge to encourage others, large and small, to join this campaign."
The new funds will be earmarked for the vaccine development initiative that IAVI researchers laid out in "Scientific Blueprint: 2000," the organization's strategic plan to accelerate the development of a preventive AIDS vaccine. The funds will also support IAVI's program to help assure global access to an AIDS vaccine once it is developed. With the gift from the Gates Foundation, IAVI has now secured commitments totaling $230 million, representing more than 40 percent of its $550 million campaign goal. Other major supporters of the organization include the Rockefeller, Sloan, and Starr foundations, the World Bank, and the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.