“Sometimes it’s just a question of money?” The role of private philanthropy in helping to achieve universal access for youth

By Caitlin Chandler & Sarah Hamilton, Guest Bloggers

In 2010, U.S.-based private philanthropy disbursed $459 million to HIV-related programming[1] (note: this excludes bi-lateral, multilateral, and government spending and takes into account funders with portfolios of over US$300,000 in HIV-related disbursements annually). U.S.-based funders that supported international HIV programs in 2010 targeted 38% of their money towards youth[2].

Yet – as readers know – young people continue to remain disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 40% of new infections globally. Despite the HIV response having 30 years of experience with what works, are we funding the right things to ensure young people receive universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support?

At the recent Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) annual meeting, over 70 representatives of donor organizations met to discuss critical issues in the HIV response. A lunchtime breakout session examined what the funding world has learned on achieving universal access for youth. A diverse group of donors first discussed the failed programs that have been supported over the years for young people, including abstinence-only sex education, ‘just say no’ programs for young people who use drugs instead of harm reduction, and programs which do not include young key affected populations.

Donors also mentioned that while large-scale HIV awareness campaigns produced increased knowledge on HIV in young people, they have failed to achieve their goals of broader behavior change, while others noted that some small-scale programs funded were never evaluated, so it’s difficult to assess their impact. Participants agreed that an ongoing challenge to meeting young people’s needs is the lack of awareness from donors – but also broader society – of the rights of all young people, including young key affected populations.

In terms of successes, donors discussed many of the interventions highlighted in UNICEF’s 2011 report, Opportunities in Crisis, including evidence-informed interventions for young people such as: sex education, comprehensive harm reduction, male circumcision, communication for social change, programs that achieve consistent condom use, treatment for young people living with HIV, and others.

As a next step, the group suggested several key issues for the ongoing engagement of funders – particularly the top 10 U.S. funders who contribute 80% of overall resources[3]:

  • What does treatment as prevention mean for funders serving young people? How should donors prioritize funding treatment versus other prevention interventions? How can youth-led organizations and community based organizations be effectively engaged in discussions around treatment as prevention so that they can adapt their programs as necessary?
  • The role and potential impact of social media and new technology needs to be better assessed and understood by the funding community to ensure smart investments are made based on the best available evidence. We must  understand how these new tools can be useful in working with young key affected populations, and also be aware of their limitations.
  • More broadly, funders need to communicate their own needs for outcomes on youth-related initiatives and work with grantees to develop outcomes which benefit both parties. If youth-led and youth-serving organizations better understand what will constitute success to the donor community, it will help them build more impactful and sustainable programming.

It was clear in this discussion that the private sector has a responsibility to fund smartly and strategically for young people affected by HIV.

But what does that mean to you? How do the above key issues resonate with your current or planned priorities? What experience with funding has gone well (or not well) for you, and what have you learned?  FCAA is committed to sharing your feedback with the funding community – please send to sarah@fcaaids.org or via Twitter @FCAA.


About the guest bloggers:

Caitlin Chandler is the Director of the HIV Young Leaders Fund. HYLF’s mission is to enable new leadership in the HIV response among young people most affected by HIV. Funded work is for peer-based services, advocacy, or community mobilization that focuses on young people most affected by HIV. HYLF also provides support to grantees to become advocates and links the knowledge of grantees with the broader HIV response. HYLF is youth-led and governed, developing leadership capacity at all levels of its organization. Caitlin has previously worked with aids2031, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, West Africa AIDS Foundation, and NYC Student Initiative on AIDS. Her recent article, “Towards a different international HIV response for young people” was just published in the December 2011 issue of Global Public Health.

Sarah Hamilton is the Program & Communications Director for Funders Concerned about AIDS, the only U.S.-based organization comprised of and for private philanthropic institutions concerned about, engaged in or potentially active in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Sarah manages FCAA’s integrated approach to programming, communications and development. She has previously worked as a public health consultant focused on HIV treatment access, corporate social responsibility and internal communications.

[2] It is important to note that European-based funders also disbursed 32% of their HIV-related funding to youth in 2010. This funding is tracked by the European HIV/AIDS Funders Group. In addition, UNAIDS is launching a new project to track HIV-related philanthropy outside of the U.S. and Western Europe.

[3] The top 10 private HIV/AIDS U.S.-based funders in 2010 include: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Ford Foundation; M.A.C AIDS Fund and M.A.C Cosmetics; Merck; Abbott and Abbott Fund; Johnson & Johnson; Bristol-Myers Squibb and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation; Philip T. and Susan M. Ragon Institute Foundation; Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; and ViiV Healthcare. See pages 21-22 of FCAA’s resource tracking report.

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