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New Report Questions the Funding and Activities of Faith-Based HIV/AIDS Organizations

July 15, 2010

A new report released on the eve of XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna calls for clarity regarding the funding and activities of faith-based organizations that are involved in HIV/AIDS work. The report, “Seeing Is Believing: Questions about Faith-Based Organizations That Are Involved in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment,” was commissioned by Catholics for Choice.

Faith-based organizations have long been on the front lines of healthcare provision, and they receive enormous amounts of public money to do so. Since HIV was first identified, they have provided critical care to people living with HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, many of these providers do not provide a full range of preventative care, especially advice on the use of and access to condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. Too few people have questioned whether the faith-based groups’ use of those funds is as effective as it might be. This report raises some important questions and provides some proposals for how we might move forward towards more transparency and, as a result, more comprehensive prevention efforts—especially for higher risk populations.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, said, “We do see a positive role for faith-based organizations in the provision of healthcare services. In many cases, FBOs are the only ones who operate in poorly resourced or rural areas. They have an immense amount of local goodwill, built up over decades working with people when others wouldn’t. Many workers have shown tremendous resilience and bravery in their commitment to the provision of healthcare to those who are the least-served. We cannot afford to lose this legacy.

“However, the recommendations in our report highlight some improvements that can be made to ensure that adequate codes of conduct and transparency are developed for all organizations that receive public funds to fight the spread of and treat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The recommendations include:

  • We believe that there should be complete transparency about the funding that faith-based organizations receive from local, state, national and transnational institutions. At present, it is unreasonably difficult to find out how much taxpayer money goes to fund organizations working on HIV and AIDS. It is also very difficult to review the criteria by which public funders judge whether any organization may or may not receive funds for their HIV/AIDS work and whether there are special criteria for FBOs.
  • We believe that public funds going towards preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and treating those living with HIV/AIDS should be subject to the same strictures as are public funds in other spheres.
  • All public funding agencies should publish annually a list of the organizations they have funded and how much money each received.
  • All funding agencies should develop and publish a list of criteria by which they judge whether to fund an organization. If there are special criteria for FBOs, the reason for their existence needs to be made clear, along with the differences from the general criteria.
  • Finally, funding agencies must ensure that public funding is not used to allow any organization to discriminate in hiring, to refuse to provide or find reasonable alternatives for the provision of basic treatment or prevention options, or for the use of proselytizing.

Catholics for Choice will send this report to and seek answers to these questions from donor agencies around the world.

Seeing Is Believing: Questions about Faith-Based Organizations That Are Involved in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment.