Gates and Clinton Ask Americans to Give to Global Health

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and former President Clinton said Wednesday that Americans should take more of an interest in global health issues.

The men, who in recent years have tackled major health issues, spoke at the TIME Global Health Summit in New York, a three-day event focusing on solving some of the world's major health problems, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. The summit ends today.

Caring about the health of the world's poorest people benefits everyone involved, Clinton noted.

"Demand that your government pays (sic) more attention. It's immoral that people in Africa die like flies of diseases that no one dies of in the United States. And the more disease there is, the more political unrest there will be, leading to more Darfurs, which the U.S. will have to pay to fix," said Clinton, referring to violent political strife in the African nation of Sudan. "You should care."

Earlier this week, Gates and his wife, Melinda, donated $258 million to anti-malaria efforts in Africa, and the Bill Clinton Foundation is heavily focused on HIV initiatives.

While they both noted that ordinary Americans don't have the resources they do, they said there are ways to help, from giving money to volunteering with groups that work in developing countries.

Gates especially praised the work of religious groups, who often work in countries with only the help and aid of their congregations.

"They're doing God's work in a pretty incredible way," Gates said. "They have provided the lion's share of the personnel."

Gates also said his biggest frustration was a lack of interest from some of the governments of developing countries.

"Health care doesn't rise up very high on the agenda on a lot of poor countries," Gates said. "I think there are some countries with AIDS epidemics that haven't stepped up to get the message out on the behavioral change, or stepped up to get infrastructure for treatment …. And where you have a lack of priority and lack of funding, it just breaks down."

Clinton, meanwhile, said he was frustrated by a lack of available help at the grassroots level.

"A lot of these countries have good honest leaders. But two layers down, people don't know basic things about TB (tuberculosis) and malaria, and even if they do, they don't know how to set up the systems (to help)," he said.

Despite the serious tone of the discussion, the men frequently cracked jokes, such as when TIME Magazine Managing Editor Jim Kelly asked the men how they "keep it real" because they are white, male and rich.

Clinton, looking over at Gates, who has been recognized as the world's richest person, said "That's a relative term."

Gates agreed.

"On average, yes."