Report from Catholic AIDS Pre-Conference Print {sharethis label=}

Sustainability of Funding for Church-Sponsored HIV Programs; Diverse Partnerships Key to Success

Report from the Global Fund

The question of sustainability of funding for church-sponsored HIV programming is a critical one for faith-based groups responding to the AIDS crisis, and was high on the agenda at the International Catholic AIDS Pre-Conference held at Catholic University in Washington, DC July 21-22. Christoph Benn, Director of Resource Mobilization and Donor Relations at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria addressed this question, saying faith-based organizations have always been central partners to the Global Fund and have a comparative advantage in accessing hard-to-reach populations. 

According to Mr. Benn, there have been 44 grants signed with FBOs since 2002, with 22 FBOs serving as principal recipients, which received $645 million in Global Fund support. The Global Fund now has $1.6 billion available in funding for the 2012-2014 timeframe, and Mr. Benn said the situation has improved greatly since last November, with confidence in the fund returning and all donors paying at least 50 percent of their commitment for this year.

The United States is the largest donor to the Global Fund, contributing 32 percent of the funds, with France and the United Kingdom following 15.6 percent and 15 percent respectively. In light of budget deficits faced by donor countries, there are increasing political concerns about spending money or promoting a country’s contribution publicly. According to Mr. Benn, for the first time ever there is more funding from the recipient countries themselves to support programs. This is very encouraging, as Mr. Benn remarks, “We should be enabling and complementing the work of nations, not sustaining or fully supporting it. We now see greater partnership at the country level.”

Simplifying the Global Fund Application Process

The Global Fund has transformed its application process in order to simplify the process for applicants. According to Mr. Benn, the Global Fund expects to have more of a dialogue with applying countries where they will submit a simple concept paper for a project, which will be reviewed and critiqued so when the application is submitted, it is expected to be more likely to be approved.  | Read more on the Global Fund Application Process

Report from PEPFAR

Thomas Walsh, Deputy Coordinator for External Relations, Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, gave a perspective from PEPFAR at the conference. According to Mr. Walsh, there are three major stories that many people are not aware of in the response to HIV/AIDS. He said the first story is that there are 8 million people on treatment for HIV/AIDS in low and middle income nations and we have seen a decrease in the transmission of HIV from mother to child, making the goal of zero transmissions from mother to child by 2015 increasinly realistic. Another major story is the support of the U.S. taxpayer in responding to AIDS, with 32 percent of Global Fund contributions coming from the U.S. According to Mr. Walsh, after years of growth, funding for AIDS programs is now level, which is encouraging in the face of budget cuts in most other areas The other very important story is the role of faith-based organizations in responding to the AIDS crisis. “We are committed to telling this story,” said Mr. Walsh.

PEPFAR was reauthorized in 2008 and will be up again for reauthorization in 2013. However, Mr. Walsh explained the law itself will still exist, it is only portions of it that will expire if it is not reauthorized. He added that PEPFAR will stay in force for the foreseeable future. “It is impressive that this program has been supported by both (political) parties,” said Mr. Walsh, adding the need to show positive results and advocacy by the faith community is critical to this support. 

In addressing what PEPFAR needs to continue to be successful, Mr. Walsh said PEPFAR needs partners to continue to provide technical assistance, and needs to see improvements from countries that have not been as successful in responding to AIDS, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. Mr. Walsh identified the response to AIDS as a three-legged stool consisting of PEPFAR, the Global Fund and the affected countries themselves. The faith-based community contributes to all three. “We know you’re in this for the long haul. Thank you for your humility," he said, "That is a dimension of the Catholic response to the AIDS crisis.”

Diverse Partnerships for Success

According to panelist Michele Broemmelsiek, Global Chief of Party for AIDSRelief at Catholic Relief Services, the faith community response to the HIV/AIDS crisis has been incredible. “Before the Global Fund and PEPFAR, you were helping people with compassion,” Ms. Broemmelsiek told the attendees. She said the only way to get to the end of the epidemic is to respond from a community level and also pointed out the need for diverse partnerships and recommended organizations look beyond their usual partners. She said AIDSRelief is an example of a diverse partnership, including Catholic Relief Services, CCIH members IMA World Health and Catholic Medical Mission Board, the Futures Group, and the Institute for Human Virology at the University of Maryland. She pointed out this partnership includes a university and a for-profit organization, something that may be new to some organizations. AIDSRelief has been able to provide treatment for more than 700,000 people. Ms. Broemmelsiek also discussed the need for quality data collection. She said, “We have a great story, and we need to share the numbers.” 

Results of Funding Challenge

Finola Finnan, of the Irish charity Trócaire and the Chair of the Catholic HIV/AIDS Network (CHAN), discussed a CHAN study conducted in 2011 on the effect of the leveling off of AIDS funding on FBOs providing services to people living with HIV/AIDS. The study looked at 11 organizations located in Africa, Asia and Latin America providing AIDS services and included a mix of large, small, international and local organizations. Ms. Finnan said the recurring theme found by the research was “uncertainty.” Many respondents have no guarantee of funding beyond the current fiscal level, which makes the implementation of services extremely difficult. The study revealed that all organizations experienced some cuts. Fortunately, people being forced off treatment entirely was not reported in the 2011 CHAN study, but there have been problems with respect to a lack of adherence due to drug shortages and people being unable to travel to clinics to access ART because they are unable to pay for transportation.

In addition, testimony from the 2011 CHAN research indicates that funding for wider care and support services is also declining. Such support services include psychosocial support, support for orphans and vulnerable children, nutrition, and skills training for returning to work. Funding cuts are also affecting HIV prevention efforts.

Faith Community Voice Should Be Heard

Joshua Mavundu of Batani HIV and AIDS Service Organization in Zimbabwe (a Trócaire partner) also spoke on the panel. Mr. Mavundu is an advocate and activist who suffered greatly from HIV infection until he sought treatment at a Catholic institution. He said faith-based institutions are in an ideal position to respond to AIDS because they are scattered everywhere and have such extensive reach. Mr. Mavundu urged the faith community to use its voice to advocate for AIDS funding, saying, “Advocacy should be a big part of what we do. Our voice should be heard.”

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 July 2012 19:04 )