World Aids Day

Today is World Aids Day. The increasingly successful, though still far from won, fight against HIV/Aids is a battle that has seen philanthrocapitalism at its most effective. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has delivered considerable resources and used its public voice to drive a wide range of initiatives, including working with Bono’s campaigning and lobbying organisation, DATA (now ONE), which we profile in the book, to convince President Bush to launch his President’s Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (Pepfar). Though by no means perfect, Pepfar is one of the few positives in the Bush foreign policy record.

Former President Bill Clinton’s foundation has negotiated with pharmaceutical companies much lower prices for anti-retroviral drugs for people with HIV/Aids in poor countries, which is one reason why we are glad he will be allowed to continue his philanthropy now his wife is to be America’s Secretary of State. President Clinton has also worked closely with another foundation that we profile in the book, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, created by Chris and Jamie Cooper-Hohn, to make available affordable anti-retrovirals for children with HIV/Aids in poor countries.

Matthew recently interviewed Peter Piot, who is stepping down after a long and impressive stint as executive director of the United Nations program to fight Aids. (The new executive director of UNAIDS will be Michel Sidibe.) Piot, who is expected to join a think-tank in London focused on global public health, said that for the first time, this year he has seen real signs of progress. Reflecting on what has been done right, he pointed to effective global leadership, and the development of a treatment in high-income countries that generated belief that something could be done in developing countries, too.

Piot praised as “fundamental” the contribution made by philanthrocapitalists to the fight against HIV/Aids. What they have brought is a combination of a willingness to fund risky “crazy ideas” that governments would not touch, and access to at-risk people in areas where it is hard for government to get – such as workplaces – and with a credibility that government struggles to muster – such as educating young people about safe sexual behaviour through MTV. There is a need to become even more professional in changing behaviour through a businesslike approach to marketing and branding, he says. The lessons for fighting other diseases? “Don’t leave it to governments. You need a coalition, a brilliant coalition, that will use the best skills of business and non-governmental organisations and community groups, as well as governments, of course, and, secondly, a strong emphasis on results and facts, which not only is good for mobilising constituencies but also gives you accountability.”