One of the biggest challenges facing humanity in recent decades has been the HIV/AIDS crisis. While a number of strides have been made toward ending the disease, much remains to be done in countries around the globe, even in the United States. The most recent presidential election has raised a number of concerns about the future of HIV/AIDS funding in the United States.
Recently, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) held its annual summit and talked about how the new administration’s priorities could put decades of investment in the crisis at risk. As a result, FCAA has renewed its focus on encouraging philanthropic support for HIV/AIDS work and research.
FCAA began its operations about three decades ago when the AIDS crisis was making headlines in the United States. The organization successfully leveraged advocacy to garner support and ultimately raised billions for dollars for the cause.
Leaders in the organization are worried that the current administration could undermine this work through actions such as the defunding of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the cessation of aid to certain international programs. The United States remains a world leader in the crusade against HIV/AIDS, but FCAA worries that this fact could change.
The Role of Philanthropy in HIV/AIDS Work
With government funding in question, philanthropists could step in to fill the gap. However, philanthropic funding for HIV/AIDS has remained flat for the past decade, at about $600 million. The total number of funders in this space has dropped, perhaps because of a belief that an end is in sight. While this fact is likely true, it does not mean that funding is not still necessary to reach that point. Total support has stayed fairly consistent because top-tier funders have donated more to the cause.
Leaders in HIV/AIDS philanthropy include the Ford Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, amfAR, the Wellcome Trust, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In addition, a number of major pharmaceutical companies continue to donate to the HIV/AIDS research space. However, funding from these companies tends to fluctuate based on how their products are faring on the market.
FCAA has pledged to work with philanthropists to help them deploy funding as effectively as possible. The group is working diligently to identify the regions, populations, and communities that remain underfunded to help direct donations where they are needed the most.
A Major Player in HIV/AIDS Philanthropy
One of the major long-term supporters of the fight against HIV/AIDS is the Gates Foundation, which has maintained its funding strategy for decades despite waning public interest in the cause. While the foundation has sometimes reduced its funding temporarily, HIV/AIDS has remained one of its major emphases since it first pledged to speed the end of the disease. The foundation has a five-point strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS, which includes a focus on diagnostic testing.
While diagnostic testing may not initially seem as important as providing anti-retroviral drugs, about half of all people living with HIV do not know that they have it. Faster, cheaper, and more accessible testing can go a long way in encouraging people to seek treatment. Recently, the Gates Foundation teamed with OraSure Technologies to disburse OraQuick testing kits in 50 developing countries throughout Africa and Asia. The foundation has supported self-testing since 2010, when it invested in Daktari Diagnostics.
Of course, the Gates Foundation also provides other forms of support. In December, the organization invested $140 million in Intarcia Therapeutics for the development of an implantable pump that will deliver medicine designed to prevent HIV infections.
HIV/AIDS Philanthropy Demands in the US
Much of the Gates Foundation’s investment in HIV/AIDS is aimed at reducing rates of infection in developing countries around the world. However, the United States continues to struggle with this disease, especially in the South. The South has continually faced underfunding in the LGBTQ space, which has become especially apparent with the growing rate of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in South Florida. In fact, this region has been identified as an epicenter for new HIV cases.
In reaction to the regional trend, many foundations that have traditionally focused on HIV/AIDS outside of the United States, such as the Ft. Lauderdale-based Campbell Foundation, have turned funding toward domestic projects. Likewise, organizations like the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation have shifted resources to the South even though they tend to have a more national or international focus.
The Campbell Foundation, which focuses entirely on HIV/AIDS, has made several notable grants in its immediate community to combat the rise in diagnoses in South Florida. These grants include funding for mentorship at the Miami Center for AIDS Research to train new scientists; funding for anti-HIV medication for high-risk individuals; and funding for a researcher at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, who is designing a long-lasting medication to encourage regime adherence. Failing to take HIV medications can result in new, drug-resistant strains.
With a newfound focus on domestic issues, there is always the risk that international HIV/AIDS initiatives will go underfunded. However, it is important for philanthropists to continue to support efforts around the globe.