Take A Virtual Reality Tour Of South Africa’s Fight Against AIDS (Bill Gates Is Coming, Too)

South Africa: Virtually There wants to immerse Westerners in the experience of Africans dealing with the disease, so they’re moved to do something about it.

Take A Virtual Reality Tour Of South Africa’s Fight Against AIDS (Bill Gates Is Coming, Too)
[Photo: via Gates Notes]

Bill Gates has a theory about how to create global change: “If you could shuffle all of the homes in the world like a deck of cards so that people in wealthy countries lived side by side with people from poor countries, it would transform the world’s fight against poverty, hunger, and disease. It would be impossible for people to look away, impossible for them not to help,” he writes on Gates Notes, his personal blog.


That’s definitely not possible–even for the world’s richest person. So he’s trying to simulate it instead. In this case, with a virtual reality video for viewers to receive a first-hand, interactive look at South Africa’s battle against HIV and AIDS.

See the VR film here. [Photo: via Gates Notes]

The video, featured in a post entitled “South Africa: Virtually There,” is a ride-along with Gates as he tours the clinics, free testing centers, and meets people dealing quietly with the stigma of the disease. As Gates explains on camera, today more than 12 million Africans are currently receiving antiretroviral drug treatment. That’s good but not enough. More than 2,000 young people in the region are still infected daily, quadrupling the mortality rate since 1990, he notes elsewhere on his blog.

The goal is to raise awareness and perhaps donations to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which needs $13 billion to continue it’s programs over the next three years. (He’s already a heavy donor.) While this isn’t Gates’s first foray into VR, it’s by far his most ambitious. Others include a trip to Burger Master with sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, and golf cart adventure with Warren Buffet. (To be fair, both were related to more jovial topics.)

The experience isn’t perfect. “Pulling on a pair of virtual reality goggles can, I admit, feel like you’re blocking out the world,” Gates writes. “But I hope you’ll find that they’re an amazing tool to draw you closer to other people.” That includes him. Riding shotgun with a plain-spoken guy named Bill is a pretty good way to humanize the intentions of a billionaire.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.