Have Funders Forgotten About AIDS?

Decades into the fight against the rising tide of global HIV/AIDS cases, significant progress has been made on all fronts. Viable treatment options have improved, access to treatment has increased globally, and the number of children under five dying from HIV has decreased. However, the overall rate of new HIV infections isn’t decreasing fast enough, threatening to send the progress made over the past decades back a few paces.

UNAIDS and the Lancet Commission recently released a report that revealed some pretty sobering findings. One of the most concerning revelations of the report is that if funding for HIV/AIDS and access to treatment isn’t increased, the world may bear witness to a dramatic rebound of the HIV epidemic. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS is encouraging the international community to take action now or, he warns, “...the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

Global health funders are pouring millions upon millions of dollars into the fight against diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. That’s not even including the truckloads of cash that have gone toward combatting Ebola over the past year. With all this attention on fighting diseases, where’s all the HIV/AIDS funding?

We took a look at our top funders for HIV/AIDS efforts including the Gates and Ford foundations, to see just what was going on in this funding space.

Over the past few years, the Gates Foundation has awarded around 50 HIV/AIDS grants each year for amounts totaling between $150 and $200 million. Though we’re only halfway through the year, the foundation has only awarded five HIV/AIDS grants for a total of just over $8 million. This time last year, the foundation awarded nearly $46 million over 13 HIV/AIDS related grants. We did note however, that over the past few years, the Gates Foundation made significant HIV/AIDS funding during the second half of the year. So we’ll keep an eye out to see if that pattern remains this year.

Next up, we have the Ford Foundation. If you haven’t heard yet, the Ford Foundation recently revealed a major change in grantmaking direction to focus on inequality in all of its forms. Specific details on the revamp have yet to be announced, so for now, there's no telling if it’s Reducing HIV/AIDS Discrimination program will make the cut.

Related: About Those “Big Changes” at the Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation typically makes around 50 HIV/AIDS-related grants, totalling some $10 to $12 million annually. This year, the story at Ford is much the same as Gates, in that it’s awarded only three HIV/AIDS-related grants so far, for a total of $388,000.

As for the MAC AIDS Fund, we’re certain that it’s raising money for HIV/AIDS and is funding related programs, but it doesn’t exactly keep its information up to date. For MAC, it’s likely that we’ll have to wait until it files its 990s. The same can be said for the Abbott Fund.

Now for some positive news. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation continues to pay attention to HIV/AIDS and funds some pretty unique programs. For example, the BMS Foundation recently awarded grants to programs supporting grandparents of children affected by HIV in semirural settings and for the support of people with disabilities living with HIV.

Two additional funders that haven’t forgotten about AIDS are GlaxoSmithKline and ViiV Healthcare. GSK recently announced a $20 million investment over the next five years to establish the University of North Carolina’s HIV CURE Center, in addition to a new company, Qura Therapeutics.

ViiV Healthcare focuses exclusively on HIV/AIDS. It was created when pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline spun off their HIV assets in 2009. It recently announced an investment of £2 million per year to its Through Positive Action program, which focuses on alleviating the burden and impact of HIV and AIDS among transgender people and men who have sex with men (MSM).

Related: ViiV Healthcare Continues to Take Aim at the Unmet Needs of Overlooked HIV Populations

Overall, global funding for HIV/AIDS has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride over the past few years. While programs like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have seen increases, private organization and NGO funding have generally experienced decreases.

If that decreasing trend in funding from NGOs and private organizations continues, Professor Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, warns, “..merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries.”