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HIV and AIDS Advocacy Groups around the World Call for More Funding Transparency

November 30, 2010

International development agencies in nine countries—AustriaCanadaDenmarkGermanyNorwaySpainSweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America—have been asked to explain their criteria for funding HIV and AIDS assistance—and whether faith-based organizations get special concessions when they apply for public funds to deliver prevention and treatment programs abroad.

Sixteen national and international nongovernmental organizations today wrote to nine national overseas development agencies, requesting “assistance in achieving greater transparency and accountability in the funding that faith-based organizations receive from publicly-funded bilateral and multilateral donors.” The letter also went to UNFPA and UNAIDS.

The organizations noted that it can be unreasonably difficult to find out how much taxpayer money is granted to organizations working on HIV and AIDS. Not only that, it is also difficult to determine the criteria by which public funders judge whether an organization is eligible to receive funds for its HIV and AIDS work and, importantly, whether special considerations are made for faith-based organizations.

Jon O’Brien, president of the sponsoring organization Catholics for Choice, said, “The pope’s comments on condom use in HIV prevention present a terrific opportunity for action—opening the door for increased prevention options to be made available and for assistance to be provided to some of the more marginalized groups, including sex workers and men who have sex with men. Indeed, it has thrown open the doors to a more public conversation about the use of condoms to curtail the HIV pandemic. This is especially true for faith-based organizations that have often claimed religious justification for refusing to provide condoms or to work with any number of communities of whose ‘lifestyles’ they do not approve.”

The effort was initiated by Catholics for Choice and its Condoms4Life campaign—the only campaign dedicated to changing the church’s teachings on condoms. (To see the Condoms4Life ads placed in newspapers around the world on World AIDS Day, click here.) The signatories will follow up with the development agencies in January 2011.

A full list of agencies that will receive the letter follows at the end of this release.

The letter notes that some faith-based health providers do not offer the full range of preventative care in instances when they believe that doing so would violate their religious beliefs. For example, providing or advocating for condom use, or providing services to sex workers or men who have sex with men.

“The pope has created the possibility of rapid change in the way the Catholic church views HIV/AIDS and how it can preserve the sanctity of human life,” says Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. “Given the spotlight that has fallen on HIV/AIDS programs, international development agencies should also focus on ensuring that there is complete transparency on whom they fund and their support for evidence-based services. The pope has provided a glimmer of hope that we actually can begin the process of ending the AIDS epidemic rather than believe it is enough to maintain the sick and dying. It never will be.”

The NGOs called for HIV and AIDS-related grants to be subject to the same strictures that public funds in other spheres are and for information about which organizations receive funds, and how much, to be published annually. They also requested that aid agencies publish the criteria by which they judge whether to fund an organization and that the agencies require that these funds not be used to discriminate in hiring or proselytize. Recipients of funds should also agree to either provide all relevant services themselves or find reasonable alternatives for the provision of basic treatment and prevention options.

The letter concludes: “As we mark World AIDS Day, it is clearer than ever that in order to save lives and prevent new infections, we must use every proven, effective tool at our disposal. Furthermore, when enormous sums of public funds are at stake, and particularly in a time of global economic crisis, interventions should be required to be evidence-based and non-discriminatory.”


The following agencies are receiving the letter:



Österreichischen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (OEZA)

Austrian Development Corporation

Letter co-signed by the Global AIDS Alliance


Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Letter co-signed by Action Canada for Population and Development, Catholics for Choice Canada and the Global AIDS Alliance


Styrelsen for Internationalt Udviklingssamarbejde (DANIDA)

Danish International Development Agency

Letter co-signed by Sex og Samfund and the Global AIDS Alliance


Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammen­arbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ)

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Cc: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit

Letter co-signed by the Global AIDS Alliance


Direktoratet for utviklingssamarbeid (NORAD)

Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation

Letter co-signed by Sex og Politikk, Forum for Kvinner og Utviklingsspørsmål (FOKUS) and the Global AIDS Alliance


Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID)

Spanish International Development Agency

Letter co-signed by the Global AIDS Alliance


Styrelsen för Internationellt Utvecklingssamarbete (SIDA)

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

Letter co-signed by Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning (RFSU) and the Global AIDS Alliance

United Kingdom

Department for International Development (DFID)

Letter co-signed by Terrence Higgins Trust and the Global AIDS Alliance

United States of America

United States Agency for International Development

Letter co-signed by Advocates for Youth, AIDS Action, Americans for Religious Liberty, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Global AIDS Alliance, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)