Posts Tagged ‘bill gates’

The Impatient Optimist

Monday, February 11th, 2013 | Religion & Politics

Recently, Bill Gates delivered the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture, in which he discussed the struggle to eradicate polio from the world.

The good news is, that it is now only endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

This in itself is no small achievement – polio is a disease that takes weeks to diagnose, which means the percentage of the population you need to immunise is higher, in this case 95%.

Take a country like India, with over a billion people – 75,000 new babies are born every day, and each of them requires several rounds of immunisation. That means that you need 200,000 vaccines per day, that need to be taken to rural communities, while being refrigerated, often that need to be carried for miles on foot by health workers. No wonder it took a staggering 2,000,000 people working on the programme – but they did it!

Unfortunately, you can’t stop fighting it until it’s eradicated, but with only three countries to go, the plan is to read that milestone by 2018. But more than being about one single disease, Gates points out…

Polio eradication is a proving ground, a test. It will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we can be about the future.

Together, we can achieve great things.

Circumcision and HIV

Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Science

I’m a big fan of the Gates Foundation, they do a lot of fantastic research and are working to wipe out a lot of diseases that are prevalent in the third world, such as malaria. Plus, it was co-founded by Bill Gates, who I am a big admirer of.

However, one thing that has always bugged me is their pushing of woo in one particular area – using circumcision to prevent the transmission of HIV. They even have a page about it on their website.

It doesn’t work though. Or, at least, we should say that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that it does work. This was the finding of a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pooled analyses of available observational studies of MSM revealed insufficient evidence that male circumcision protects against HIV infection or other STIs.

Ok, fine, you could argue, but there are some studies that suggest otherwise. IE, if you cherry pick your studies and ignore the meta-analysis, you can get the result you want. But interestingly, there was a study in 2009 by Maria J Wawer, and here is what they concluded.

Circumcision of HIV-infected men did not reduce HIV transmission to female partners over 24 months; longer-term effects could not be assessed. Condom use after male circumcision is essential for HIV prevention.

Why is this study so key to the debate? Because of its funder – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their own study concluded that circumcision does not stop HIV. So why are they still pushing it?