Shared Challenges Require Shared Solutions: Philanthropy & AIDS

This past Sunday, December 1st, marked the 25th annual World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We know that private philanthropy has played a catalytic role in the response to HIV/AIDS, increasing from a mere $216,000 in 1983 to roughly $500,000,000 annually today, and helping to scale up public and private investment in HIV research, prevention, care, treatment and human rights protections.

On this World AIDS Day you may have read that an AIDS-Free Generation is within our grasp. However, while prevention and treatment technologies are rapidly evolving, a trend of flat funding from the public and private sectors will not bring the needed resources to bear to meet the current challenge of the AIDS response, and importantly, endangers those critical issues (advocacy) and key populations (men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers) philanthropy has sought to protect.

The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day - Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation – is an essential one. After more than 25 years mobilizing the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS, FCAA has made seeking out new partners—from across different borders and issue areas—to join the philanthropic response to HIV/AIDS a cornerstone of our new strategic plan. With decreased philanthropic funding for HIV/AIDS, this work of community building is more important than ever. How do we connect on issues beyond HIV/AIDS to improve our impact? How do we reengage key actors that no longer see HIV/AIDS as their issue? How do we mobilize this sector to ensure we reach an AIDS-Free generation and see an end to AIDS?

Next week we will convene our 5th annual AIDS Philanthropy Summit. Since 2009 FCAA has brought together 100 leading public and private funders to discuss and strategize a collective response to the current challenges and opportunities in HIV/AIDS and related philanthropy.

This year we’re taking a new approach.

We’ve invited our affinity group partners to join us, and our members, to begin an important conversation focused on the opportunities and challenges of collaborating with partners outside of your funding portfolios.

The first day of this two-day conference (Dec 9-10) will be implemented in partnership with the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) to focus on rights-based approaches to HIV/AIDS. The day’s agenda will focus on innovative funding approaches such as advocacy, and on impacted populations such as transgender people, women, injection drug users, and sex workers.

The second day will feature lunch roundtable discussions hosted by Grantmakers in Health, Funders for LGBTQ Issues, the Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health & Rights, and IHRFG. These conversations will help grantmakers identify areas of shared interest, barriers to collaboration, and strategies to bridge those gaps to make a greater impact. Finally, the Summit will end with an interactive session hosted by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy to further encourage attendees to think about “Smashing Silos in Philanthropy” and building collaborations across issue-areas.

When FCAA was established in 1987, it was with a strong, activist voice reminding the field of philanthropy that AIDS is their issue. HIV is a disease perpetuated by poverty, racism, homophobia, and sexism –it feeds on the inequities that many engaged in a broad range of philanthropic efforts have worked tirelessly to address over decades. Clearly AIDS does not contain itself to any silo, and neither can an effective philanthropic response.

Learn more about the FCAA 2013 AIDS Philanthropy Summit online (

John Barnes is executive director of FCAA.

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