Private philanthropists in the European Union and the US spent some US$644 million on global HIV/AIDS programmes in 2011, a 5 percent increase from 2010, largely driven by funding from a small number of large donors, a new report has revealed.
In their annual report, two groups - the US-based Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) and the European HIV/AIDS Funders Group (EFG) - reported that US funders spent $491 million in 2011 while EU funders spent $170 million. Although the amount of money donated by private funders grew, the growth could be attributed to a few large donors; several other donors had, in fact, reduced their funding.
"We look at it as level growth; we've identified a few new funders, but the growth is mild," Sarah Hamilton, of the FCAA, told IRIN/PlusNews. "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a few others are the main donors driving the growth. If you take them out, there was actually an overall decrease in private philanthropy for HIV. The donor field is concentrated at the top; the top ten donors in the US contribute about 80 percent of total funds, while in the EU they contribute about 82 percent."
"The decrease could be a result of the economy, but we've also seen donors become more focused on other areas, some related to HIV, such as maternal health, health systems and reproductive health," she added.
Where has the money gone?
An estimated 44 percent of US funding was targeted at programmes with a global aim. East and Southern Africa received $69 million - the most of any region outside the US - followed by South Asia and the Pacific, which received $40 million, and East and Southeast Asia, which got $22 million.
About half of all EU funding in 2011 was targeted at projects in countries and regions outside western and central Europe, while one-third went to programmes with a global aim. Twelve percent of EU funding was spent in western and central Europe.
Much of the funding was directed towards research; the top target populations for US funding were medical research teams and projects focusing on women, men who have sex with men, and youth. The EU funders mainly targeted orphans and vulnerable children, youth, and women.
"Private philanthropy has the advantage of being better able to support programmes that may not receive adequate government funding or support. Some of the areas with gaps in funding are, in the US, men who have sex with men, and worldwide, prevention of mother-to-child transmission," Hamilton said.
She noted that trends towards "non-restricted" and "multi-year" funding indicate donors have confidence in the accountability and impact of the programmes they support.
The report's authors note that 2012 funding is forecasted to remain level. Experts are calling for greater funding, not only from the private funders but also from western governments and beneficiary nations.
Low- and middle-income countries are increasing their contributions to the HIV response, investing some $8.6 billion in 2011, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2010, according to a UNAIDS report released in July.
|The donor field is concentrated at the top; the top ten donors on the US contribute about 80 percent of total funds, while in the EU they contribute about 82 percent|
The international community contributed $8.2 billion.
"We are in an era where shared responsibility for the AIDS response is vitally important. Countries are stepping up their domestic investments for HIV, but there is still a $7 billion gap between what is needed and what is available," Paul De Lay, deputy executive director for programmes at UNAIDS, said in a statement. "Philanthropic investments for AIDS are extremely important, particularly in supporting civil society-led engagement, which can often be missing from larger-scale donor-funding plans."
Hamilton said the FCAA and the EFG were working to identify new funders, both in the west and around the world.
"Regardless of the numbers, we are proud of and excited by the funders’ support, especially in these economic times," she said. "As the report notes, there has been a decline in funding - we need to build on the political and financial commitment to HIV."