Ten years ago, only 200,000 people in developing countries were receiving HIV/ AIDS treatment, at a cost of nearly $10,000 per person per year. The prevailing belief was that health systems in low-income countries were too weak – and the price of lifesaving medicines too high – to make a significant impact on the crisis.
After meeting with world leaders at the Barcelona AIDS conference in 2002, President Clinton was inspired to try a new approach to the issue. He realized that the root problem was an economic one: the market for HIV/ AIDS medicines was completely disorganized and operating at a low-volume, high-cost model. So the Clinton Foundation took a business-oriented approach, working with governments to increase demand and drug companies to increase supply. Today the market operates on a high-volume, low-cost, model; developing country governments have saved billions of dollars; and the profitability of the industries involved has improved. More importantly, 4.5 million people, including 380,000 children, are accessing lifesaving treatment at prices that the Clinton Foundation has negotiated – more than half of the 8 million people now on treatment worldwide.
Through its work on the HIV/AIDS crisis, the Clinton Foundation realized it had developed a model that it could use to address other major challenges. Today the Foundation works to strengthen economies in the U.S., Latin America, Haiti, and Africa; fight climate change worldwide; and help children and adults live healthier lives in the United States – all by leveraging market forces, engaging stakeholders from multiple sectors, and working directly in line with governments to ensure solutions are built to last.
Nowhere is the impact of this vision more evident than in Africa, where President Clinton traveled this past July to visit Clinton Foundation projects. Much of the Foundation’s economic work in Africa centers on providing smallholder farmers with resources they need to increase their harvests and support their families. In Rwanda, President Clinton toured a new processing factory that will create domestic demand for soy, providing jobs to 30,000 farmers – 55 percent of whom are women. By ensuring these local farmers always have a good buyer
for their crop, the factory will bring economic security to the region and help families invest in other social benefits like health and education.
President Clinton also visited several Foundation projects that are addressing local inequalities in health care, including the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in rural east Rwanda. This state-of-the-art facility – the first in the region – was built through a partnership between the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation and Partners in Health, both of which are members of the Clinton Global Initiative. In Mozambique, President Clinton toured a clinic that is working to prevent the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their unborn children – an issue that has been all but eradicated in the United States but that is still responsible for the majority of new HIV infections in developing countries. And in Uganda, President Clinton announced an effort to increase access to cheap, effective treatments for diarrhea – which takes the lives of 14,000 children annually in Uganda alone.
All of these projects work, first and foremost, to improve people’s lives. But they also have a broader goal of building sustainable systems and helping governments reduce their reliance on foreign aid. In Latin America, where the wealth gap has made it increasingly difficult for the poor to move out of poverty, the Foundation focuses on growing small enterprises and creating jobs in underserved communities, often through public-private partnerships. A similar approach in Haiti is helping the country rebuild from the devastating earthquake of 2010 and developing an economy in which more Haitians can participate – and succeed.
Though developed countries face altogether different challenges, the Foundation’s approach to solving them remains similar. In the United States, much like in Latin America, the Foundation focuses on small business growth as an engine for economic progress and runs programs to support urban entrepreneurs. And, to tackle childhood obesity, the Foundation turned to industry solutions – much as it did when addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. A voluntary deal with U.S. beverage industries is reducing the quantity of high-calorie beverages in schools; at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, beverage shipments of full-calorie soft drinks to schools were 90 percent lower than they were in the first half of the 2004-2005 school year. The Foundation will build upon these successes and extend the reach of its domestic health programs through the new Clinton Health Matters Initiative, which focuses on improving health and wellness across all generations.
Affecting both developed and developing nations is global climate change, which has been a major focus of the Foundation’s efforts since 2006. Today, in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Foundation works with a network of 59 cities around the world to take action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a goal of reducing 248 million tons by 2020. The Foundation is also improving the marketplace for clean energy technology, increasing energy efficiency through building retrofits, and reversing deforestation – all through projects that benefit local people by creating jobs and improving quality of life.
Through each of its programs – from Africa to the United States – the Clinton Foundation works to provide people and communities with the investment and opportunity they need to build a better world. Learn more about the work of President Clinton and his Foundation – and how you can get involved – at clintonfoundation.org.