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Bill Gates promises to help India fight AIDS

Microsoft Corp Chairman Bill Gates began his visit with a pledge for "a large commitment" to battle AIDS after meeting patients suffering from the disease.

business Updated: Nov 11, 2002 13:06 IST

Microsoft Corp Chairman Bill Gates began a visit to India on Monday with a pledge for "a large commitment" to battle AIDS after meeting patients suffering from the disease.

Volunteers at the Naz Foundation, a voluntary group working to heighten awareness about AIDS, welcomed Gates with a red vermillion mark on his forehead.

"I'm here to learn and understand from the foundation and reach out to partners in India," said the software mogul whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to improve health care and education, mainly in poorer countries.

Gates sat cross-legged on a mattress on the floor at Naz's office in New Delhi, talking to volunteers and HIV- and AIDS- infected people who included street children, prisoners and prostitutes.

"There's a lot to be done in education on this topic. Later today I'll be announcing an initiative and a large commitment (to an AIDS prevention campaign)," he said.

Gates, the richest man in the United States whose company dominates the personal computer software market, will also meet Indian leaders, business people and technology experts to boost his company's interests during the four-day trip.

But most of his first day was slated to be devoted to charity projects.

Twenty percent of Microsoft's engineers are of Indian origin. "A high percent of our great people come from India, a lot of our key partners are based in India, so there is a desire to give back because of that," he told The Times of India in a recent interview.

Gates, on his third Indian visit in five years, is also expected to announce the stepping up his Indian software involvement, a source close to his company told Reuters.

Microsoft has a software centre in Hyderabad, one of the few outside the United States.

Gates is due to meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who has a deep interest in harnessing software for use by India's masses.

Microsoft is already a partner of some Indian states, helping them train teachers and police in software use, computerise rural land records and aid farmers in getting the best prices.

First Published: Nov 11, 2002 13:06 IST