Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Last year, when doing some investigations on the incidence of HIV/AIDS around the world, I heard a fact that stuck with me. I was moderating a discussion with former President Bill Clinton and Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell. I had asked the CEO why Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies didn't offer life-prolonging AIDS medications to certain countries at a lower cost. He told me even if the cure for AIDS came free in the form of a glass of clean water, we still wouldn't rid the world of AIDS. I thought about that for a while and it made sense. The point was that the pharmaceutical companies certainly needed to do their part, but that people on the ground also needed to systematically guarantee access and the funding needed to be available to make it all happen. Lots of moving parts.
As I have covered the Clinton Global Initiative for the past three years, I have come to better understand the value of putting people in the same room who control these various parts. There are plenty of famous faces including Desmond Tutu, Al Gore, Angelina Jolie, Lance Armstrong and Ted Turner to name a few. But there are also people like Paul Farmer. A physician from Boston, Paul lived with his family in a modified school bus for a chunk of his childhood. Now, he is a Harvard M.D. who has made it his life's work to provide access to health care in some of the most remote and dangerous places on earth. Haiti, Rwanda, and many other places.
Paul is the kind of guy that will sit in the room with the CEO of large pharmaceutical companies, Clinton and lots of concerned citizens. He will lay out exactly what he has seen around the world and what will be needed to provide the crucial access that has proven a stumbling block for so long. If history is a good measure, CGI will raise billions of dollars again this year as it has in years past, but with the help of the more than 1,000 leaders from around the world, including Paul Farmer, it will make strides toward getting that "free clean glass of water" to those who need it most.
The Clinton Global Initiative, along with other forums such as Davos, Switzerland, are typically a yearly gathering of people who define global problems and potential solutions. Do you think these sort of non-governmental organizations make a difference? Would you get involved?
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