Private Philanthropy is Critical to Ushering in the End of AIDS

So far, 2016 has been a very busy year for the HIV/AIDS community. In early June, we gathered in New York for the United Nations High Level Meeting on ending the epidemic. This meeting was closely followed by the AIDS 2016 conference, notable for returning to Durban, South Africa. We last convened in Durban at the turn of the millennium -- the dawning of the Millennium Development Goals -- when an urgent call to halt the spread of AIDS was issued.

Today, we have updated goals to reach and a new timeline in which to reach them. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 2030 as the deadline for ending AIDS as a public health threat.

If we thought 2016 was busy, the next several years are about to get much busier for our community.

Our goal, though, is within reach--closer than ever, in fact. Consider that, in 2000, fewer than 700,000 people received antiretroviral medicines; today, 15 million people have access to this life saving treatment and HIV infections have declined 35 percent. This represents enormous progress. Yet we can't stop here. We have critical milestones to meet within a short window of opportunity. Without a sense of urgency and robust resources, we risk not only missing the 2030 deadline, but also backsliding and even the possibility of resurgence.

Of significant concern is that funding for HIV and AIDS is flat lining. In some cases, it is even decreasing. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation/UNAIDS report, donor government funding to support HIV efforts in low- and middle-income countries fell for the first time in five years, from US$8.6 billion in 2014 to US$7.5 billion in 2015. This is a worrisome trend to say the least; achieving the SDG goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat is not feasible without adequate funding.

But the response to HIV does not only fall to governments--we all shoulder that responsibility. In fact, one of the most unique aspects of the fight against HIV and AIDS is the collaboration of many diverse stakeholders who have come together to contribute intelligence, skill, compassion and, of course, resources.

In addition to donor governments, private sector dollars have greatly contributed to progress in HIV and AIDS. Though private sector funding comprises only two percent of global resources, it is absolutely essential. Resources for advocacy, arguably the biggest lever to help mobilize the fight against HIV and AIDS, is largely tied to unrestricted funding. Often the only source of unrestricted funding is that which is allocated by the private sector.

Over the past few decades, philanthropic resources have grown dramatically, becoming an integral component to the global HIV and AIDS response. What began with only five private foundation grants and $216,000 in 1983 has increased, most recently, to $618 million per year. Ending the epidemic will require further collaboration between the philanthropic and public sectors to drive robust, coordinated funding and to reach the populations most at risk.

For the past 14 years, Funders Concerned About AIDS has been tracking the field of HIV-related philanthropy, in particular, through our signature report, Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS. The most recent report showed that global private funding for HIV increased by eight percent (US$46 million) between 2013 and 2014, even as the donor government funding decreased.

For the first time, in 2014 FCAA captured data on more than 6,000 grants awarded by 228 foundations in 10 countries in order to identify gaps, trends, and opportunities in HIV-related philanthropy. The findings show that, just as with donor governments, there are gaps in private philanthropic funding that must be addressed:

  • Ending AIDS in children and adolescents is a critical milestone on the path to defeating it altogether. However, our analysis shows there is gap between the needs of children and adolescents and the available resources.
  • Despite widespread recognition among policymakers, scientists and implementers that an effective HIV response is rooted in human rights-based approaches and interventions, overall funding for these is remarkably low. Inadequate resources, combined with harmful legislation, results in many marginalized groups being directly and indirectly excluded from life-saving health services.

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  • A myriad of social and economic disparities, as well as stigma and discrimination for being transgender, greatly heightens risk behavior for transgender women. In addition to a shortage of specific programs, transgender communities often face significant barriers to HIV prevention services, including violence, poverty, unstable housing, substance abuse and mental health issues. Philanthropic resources for HIV and AIDS-affected transgender communities increased by US3 million in 2014. However, this represents only one percent (US9 million) of overall philanthropic funding for the epidemic.
  • Achieving the end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is not only a matter of mobilizing the necessary resources. Funding must be aligned and targeted. It must be allocated for: evidence-based interventions in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection; for advocacy, research, and the exploration of new methods to hasten the end of AIDS; and to address social inequities, health disparities, and human rights abuses that fuel the spread the epidemic.

    With adequate resources, directed to where they are needed most we will reach our goal. By the year 2030, the world will be free of the threat of AIDS.

    This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or, officially, "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"). The SDGs represent an historic agreement -- a wide-ranging roadmap to sustainability covering 17 goals and 169 targets -- but stakeholders must also be held accountable for their commitments. To see all the posts in the series, visit here.