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Ford Foundation Says Rights and Opportunity Are Critical for People Living Longer with HIV

Advanced Treatment is Extending Lives, but Social Progress is Needed for People to Live Full Lives with the Disease

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As millions of people across the globe begin accessing treatment and care for HIV/AIDS, the Ford Foundation today said that creating a world where people with HIV/AIDS can lead full lives with dignity, purpose and access to opportunity is a critical priority in the global response to the disease.

The foundation invited donors, government agencies, NGOs and others to come together around initiatives that advance human rights, elevate leaders from marginalized groups to the highest levels of the AIDS movement, promote government accountability on both medical and social progress, and ensure equitable distribution of AIDS programs and services.

"Discrimination against people who are HIV positive runs rampant. As the population living with HIV grows, we need to ensure they live lives with the full array of rights and dignities all individuals deserve," said Ford Foundation President Luis A. Ubinas.

The call comes on the second anniversary of the launch of the Ford Foundation Global Initiative on HIV/AIDS, which has worked to ensure that massive global investments in medical and technological breakthroughs are matched by an equally significant focus on the social dimensions of the disease.

"With millions gaining access to life-saving drugs and treatment, the battle against AIDS enters a critical phase. We must address the long-term, deeply entrenched social challenges that stand in the way of people living full and productive lives with the disease," said Jacob A. Gayle, the foundation's deputy vice president, who leads its Global Initiative on HIV/AIDS. "This means confronting head on the discrimination and lack of opportunity that made so many vulnerable to the disease in the first place."

For more than 20 years, the Ford Foundation has supported grassroots efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS on five continents. It launched the Global Initiative on HIV/AIDS in 2006 to extend the impact of this work by bringing the knowledge and experience of its grantees to global HIV/AIDS forums.

The foundation invests in a wide array of grantees -- many of whom will be attending next week's International AIDS Conference in Mexico City -- to advance innovative approaches that confront the impact of AIDS in local communities and at the global level.

Examples of recent grantee initiatives include:


A foundation-supported group known as the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit is engaging with key government HIV/AIDS agencies to ensure equitable access to treatment programs. By closely monitoring the distribution of antiretroviral treatment, for example, they have helped ensure that drug shortages are quickly addressed.

The Lawyers Collective has also pursued litigation to hold government agencies accountable for employment discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and to curb a growing trend of false advertisements promising cures for AIDS, which lead to wide-spread confusion and misinformation, especially in marginalized communities.

It is also leading the way in addressing HIV/AIDS through a human rights perspective, enabling vulnerable populations to develop a voice in political processes that shape local HIV laws and regulations.


In 2001, the foundation supported the launch of China's first-ever grassroots group for people living with HIV/AIDS. This year, with continued funding from Ford, Mangrove Support Group has provided technical training to boost the capacity of 15 other grassroots groups across the region. It has also launched a women's program to train grassroots female leaders.

Ford supported the 2008 launch of the Chinese Alliance for People Living with HIV/AIDS, a network that unites HIV grassroots groups to project a unified voice in policy and governmental forums. A new grant will help it conduct a wide-ranging study to better understand how AIDS treatment programs are affecting the daily lives of people living with the disease.

AIDS Care China has developed a new community model to improve the relationship between local government agencies and people living with HIV/AIDS, speeding up services and expanding access to information.

United States

The foundation has supported the launch of the U.S. Positive Women's Network, a group of diverse, HIV-positive female leaders from across the United States. The network unites women on the frontlines of the disease, making it possible for them to share best practices, pursue collaborative advocacy efforts and offer moral support to each other.

The Center for Women & HIV Advocacy has extended its efforts to educate policymakers and the public about the benefits of providing comprehensive sexual education in public schools. It has also used foundation investments to expand training programs that educate HIV-positive women about their legal rights.

The Women's Collective has developed a national network of women living with HIV/AIDS to make sure they are represented at policy tables where decisions are made that affect their lives. The Collective has also launched the Microbicides Advocacy Project (MAP) to ensure that women living with HIV/AIDS are part of microbicides clinical trials so that they too will have access to the prevention tool when it becomes available.

Responding to the AIDS crisis in the Southern United States, the foundation has also supported the Southern REACH initiative of the National AIDS Fund, which provides grants and assistance to community-based organizations in nine Southern states. The central goal is to broaden and strengthen community capacity to address HIV/AIDS in marginalized, at-risk populations.

Southern Africa

In South Africa, as in much of the rest of the world, evidence continues to mount that most of the care provided to the victims of AIDS is provided by community volunteers. Yet far too often, community-based organizations are woefully under-funded.

The foundation's South Africa office has supported an innovative model that promises to address this problem by helping communities join forces to attract corporate and other private resources to address AIDS. Ford funds are allowing the Kagiso Charitable Trust and the Synergos Institute to unite influential stakeholders from government, the private sector, civil society and the community around collaborative efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Alexandra, South Africa. Foundation officials hope this new approach can soon serve as a replicable model for communities across the region.

In Namibia, the International Community of Women (ICW) has created an economic empowerment program that now helps hundreds of HIV positive women build stronger livelihoods and share resources. ICW has also launched the Young Women's Dialogue to build the advocacy skills of young women living with the disease. These efforts have already resulted in the appointment of an HIV positive young woman to a seat on the National AIDS Council; and enabled a young woman to work with UNICEF to develop a curriculum for schools working with adolescents born with HIV.

In Mozambique, ICW organized the country's first ever workshop by and for HIV positive women. The groups will expand these efforts in the year ahead.


The Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA) has been a grantee of the Ford Foundation since the late 1980s and is one of the oldest and most influential non-governmental HIV/AIDS NGOs in Brazil. ABIA was a key actor in the push to encourage the federal government to guarantee universal access to antiretroviral therapy for all people living with HIV in Brazil in the early 1990s.

Over the years, the costs of this program have increased significantly, creating concern over the economic feasibility of sustaining it over the long term. In turn, ABIA, with Ford support, has stepped up its advocacy efforts. In response to these and other efforts, the Brazilian government has recently taken bold steps to ensure continued access to generic drugs, saving the country an estimated $240 million in drug costs by 2012.


The foundation's grantee AIDS Infoshare, a Russian AIDS service organization, has worked to build the skills of grassroots leaders fighting AIDS. Grant support has allowed these leaders to attend global AIDS forums for the first time, with many moving on to assume greater leadership roles at the local and national levels of Russia's response to the disease. These same leaders have also used their newfound clout to successfully call for an end to critical shortages in AIDS medications and treatment for their communities.


The foundation's Hanoi office has made several grants to support the development of grassroots organizations of people living with HIV/AIDS. Ford supports the first magazine created by and for people living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam, part of a larger effort to improve information and exchange. The foundation also funds efforts to fight stigma and discrimination and supports capacity-building and networking efforts among people living with disease.

A grant from Ford allows the Institute for Development Studies to partner with Bright Future, a leading organization of people living with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. Bright Future works to build the advocacy and communications skills of its members. It was founded in 2003 as a self-help group of 11 members; today it has developed into a network of over 1,000 people located in 14 provinces.

The foundation also supports the new Vietnam Civil Society Partnership Platform on AIDS (VCSPA). Founded in October 2007, VCSPA is a coalition that unites the voices of hundreds of civil society groups working on HIV.


In recent years, governments, organizations and individuals have made ambitious commitments to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. A Ford Foundation grant helps the World AIDS Campaign educate people about these commitments and the need to hold governments and others accountable for results. The campaign also works around the world to secure new resources for the fights against HIV/AIDS, connect local leaders working on the disease, and increase the effectiveness of civil society organizations by encouraging partnership and collaboration.

The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.

The following Ford Foundation staff members are available for interviews at the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City:

Jacob A. Gayle

Deputy Vice President

Ford Foundation Global Initiative on HIV/AIDS

Mario Bronfman

Ford Foundation Representative, Mexico City

Co-Chair, Scientific Program Committee, International AIDS Conference 2008

To arrange interviews and for further information, please contact:

Joe Voeller, Ford Foundation

(+1) 347-751-5331 in Mexico City

Fiona Guthrie, Ford Foundation

(+1) 212-573-5128 in New York

SOURCE Ford Foundation
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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