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Bill and Melinda Gates believe poor people's live will change rapidly in the near future. M&G's Health reporter Amy Green speaks to Bill Gates.
Read an edited excerpt of Bill and Melinda Gates' annual letter, titled 'Our Big Bet for the Future'
We apologise for the poor quality of the audio. Full transcript below:
Green: You've made a big bet: that the lives of people in poor countries
will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. But
you admit that a handful of the worst off could continue to struggle. Which, in
your opinion, are the worst off African countries and why?
Gates: It's hard to predict if you go
15 years out, which ones will still be in a very tough situation. Today you
know Somalia, Mali, the Central African Republic, DRC: quite a few where the
strength of the government and the basic stability and therefore the ability to
build infrastructure and have any type of government, roads, education, ... is
extremely difficult and what some people call 'failed states'. You know there
are many countries in Africa which are moving up and getting better. Typically,
although Somalia is kind of the exception, the sea board countries, because
they can engage in trade and build up infrastructure they tend to do better
than landlocked countries.
Green: In terms of HIV, the hope is that the number of people on
treatment will outstrip the number of new infections, especially in sub-Saharan
Africa. In your opinion will we reach this tipping point by 2030?
Gates: Yes, I'm optimistic that we will.
The challenge with HIV which is that right now we need to keep you on lifelong
treatment and so as we're improving the survival rates, the total number of
people living with HIV; those count for a lot. So the financial cost to the government
of providing the drugs and the services that just gets larger and larger. So we
need to have less people being infected so we're not growing the size of that
pool. And then the real dream, that we don’t have, is what's called a
functional cure, where you give people a set of drugs that are powerful enough
that then subsequently they don’t need to keep taking drugs. And there's a lot
of research in that area and there's a good chance that by then we'll have a
Green: You’ve predicted, in your newsletter, that the continent can
achieve food security in fifteen years. In your opinion is this only possible
if Africa embraces genetically modified foods?
Gates: It’s like medicine. Each different
type of crop you'll look at it and you'll say OK here’s the benefits of this
and here's the risks. In fact GMOs, all the ones that are used today, there have
been no safety problems. And the EU just agreed that individual countries could
decide to adopt GMOs. If you look at the crops that are adopted to climate
change like dealing with very heavy heat and drought and salinity – the most
productive ones there probably will involve GMO techniques. But I think the
benefits are such that a lot of countries will decide to embrace it.
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