March 30, 2017

HIV is not a crime! (except in 32 states and 72 countries)

By John Barnes, Executive Director, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA)

Even many AIDS advocates and people living with HIV are surprised to learn that HIV IS a crime in 32 US states and 72 countries around the world, with new laws being enacted every year. Since these laws have begun to appear, at the beginning of the epidemic, over 600 prosecutions of people with HIV, more than half of those in the United States.  In fact, just this week the Utah House of Representatives passed HB 369, which, if enacted, will make sexual contact by an HIV+ person without disclosure of status a first-degree felony rape. Many laws attempt to criminalize HIV transmission without regard to whether transmission has occurred, or was even possible.

In the U.S., for example, decades-long prison sentences have been issued to HIV+ people for biting or spitting on police officers, although these acts bear no risk of HIV transmission.  Additionally, HIV+ people who are on treatment and have undetectable viral loads are not infectious to their partners; however, these facts are not considered mitigating circumstances in prosecuting and convicting people with HIV.  Unconfirmed accusations from spurned lovers that their partners did not disclose their HIV status have led to 30-year prison sentences for the accused parties.  Many of the laws used to convict people with HIV of crimes also come with a lifelong label of “sex offender” which adds immeasurable additional stigma.  HIV+ status also adds to the seriousness of many alleged crimes, taking misdemeanors to felonies and adding years to prison sentences. 

Ironically, the only defense against many of these laws is not knowing your HIV status, which provides a huge disincentive to the public health priority of getting people at risk tested. Unfortunately, the problem of HIV criminalization does not receive much attention.  Most people with HIV are unaware of their level of vulnerability to criminal charges, and, due to a lack of funding to address these challenges, combatting HIV criminalization is not high on many advocates agendas.  According to data from Funders Concerned About AIDS, just over $3M was spent to combat HIV criminalization globally in 2015 (down from $4.5M in 2014).  As the largest private funder of HIV de-criminalization, the Elton John AIDS Foundation takes a comprehensive approach to addressing HIV criminalization:  supporting those at increased risk of being victims of punitive policing and improper arrests with direct services, education and legal services; while also supporting advocacy to improve laws, policies, and rights-based practices to transform police and the justice system into forces for health rather than against health.

A key theme in recent HIV-related philanthropy addressing criminalization includes advocacy and capacity building for impacted populations. Efforts by such funders as EJAF, M.A.C AIDS Fund, Ford Foundation, AIDS United, and the Third Wave Fund include: leadership retreats for HIV+ black youth in the Midwest to address HIV/AIDS criminalization and stigma; new partnerships to grow regional advocacy and support for young, black gay men and transgender people of color around key issues of poverty, criminalization and access to healthcare; research and implementation funding to examine disproportionate impact of HIV in the U.S. South with a focus on criminalization and incarceration of marginalized communities.

In an article by Catherine Hanssens of the Center for HIV Law & Policy in New York City, a leading advocate on legal issues involving HIV, Hanssens asserts “Understanding these laws and what drives them requires a brief look at the history not just of HIV-specific criminal laws, but also, more broadly, of infectious disease control in the United States.”  Hanssens then goes on to put HIV criminalization in historic context by pointing out that  “over the centuries and to the present day there have been several reliable common denominators to the policies and laws adopted in response to diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and more recently, HIV: oversized fear, stereotyping of those affected by the disease, and assignment of blame to already-marginalized members of society, e.g., the poor, sex workers, and new immigrants.

Funders Concerned About AIDS is committed to raising visibility around issues of HIV criminalization as well as resources and leadership to combat it. FCAA calls on all who seek to advance justice, to play a role in turning the tide against HIV criminalization. To learn more about our efforts, or to get involved in our work, check out our website at www.fcaaids.org or email me at john@fcaaids.org. 

About FCAA

Founded in 1987, FCAA is the leading voice on philanthropic resources allocated to the global AIDS epidemic. We provide funders with the data necessary to make informed decisions on HIV/AIDS funding. In addition, we galvanize the philanthropic sector to work collaboratively, transparently, and urgently to drive robust, focused, funding for: 1) evidence-based interventions in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection; 2) research, and the exploration of new methods to hasten the end of AIDS; and 3) investments that address social inequities, health disparities, and human rights abuses that fuel the spread the epidemic.

About John Barnes

John Barnes joined FCAA as executive director in November 2009. John began HIV work in 1987, by developing and implementing a statewide HIV/AIDS case management program for the Division of Public Health. He went on to run several local and national AIDS service organizations before moving on to corporate grantmaking.  John served on the board of directors of FCAA from 2005-2009. John also serves on the board of trustees of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  

May 4, 2021

Introducing Philanthropy Foward: Cohort 3

 

We are excited to announce the launch of Philanthropy Forward's Cohort 3 in partnership with The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions!

Philanthropy Forward is a CEO fellowship community for visionary leaders who center racial and gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy. This fellowship brings together CEOs of foundations who are supporting racial & gender justice and community power building to make deeper change at the individual, organizational, and philanthropic field levels.

  • ALEYAMMA MATHEW, she/her — Collective Future Fund
  • AMORETTA MORRIS, she/her — Borealis Philanthropy
  • ANA CONNER, they/she — Third Wave Fund
  • CARLA FREDERICKS, she/her — The Christensen Fund
  • CRAIG DRINKARD, he/him — Victoria Foundation
  • JENNIFER CHING, she/her — North Star Fund
  • JOHN BROTHERS, he/him — T. Rowe Price Foundation
  • KIYOMI FUJIKAWA, she/her — Third Wave Fund
  • LISA OWENS, she/her — Hyams Foundation
  • MOLLY SCHULTZ HAFID, she/her — Butler Family Fund
  • NICK DONOHUE, he/him — Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • NICOLE PITTMAN, she/her — Just Beginnings Collaborative
  • PHILIP LI, he/him — Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
  • RAJASVINI BHANSALI, she/they — Solidaire Network & Solidaire Action Fund
  • RINI BANERJEE, she/her — Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • TANUJA DEHNE, she/her — Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
  • YANIQUE REDWOOD, she/her — Consumer Health Foundation

learn more about each Fellow!

With a framework focused on liberated gatekeeping, accountability practices, and strategic risk taking, Philanthropy Forward is a dedicated space for leaders to organize together and boldly advance the transformed future of the sector. This growing fellowship of visionary CEOs from progressive philanthropic institutions is aligning to to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.

Philanthropy Forward is a joint initiative started in 2018 by Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Learn more about the fellowship here.

March 17, 2021

How Philanthropy Can Move from Crisis to Transformation

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here by the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project.

Dimple was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniIt was just a year ago, and yet it feels like a lifetime.

Last March, I was dreading a hectic month packed with too much work travel. Long before we had heard of Covid-19, many of us had been preparing for 2020 to be a consequential year, one in which our democracy was on the line.

My mother had generously traveled from Houston to help with childcare during my travels. Her two-week visit turned into three months, and our worlds as we knew them changed.

Covid happened.  

Then the racial justice uprisings happened.

The wildfires happened.

The election happened. 

And then an armed insurrection to overturn the democratic election results happened.

Every turn in this tumultuous year reaffirmed the reality that justice is a matter of life and death. 

Our democracy survived, though barely. But more than half a million Americans did not, and this unfathomable loss, borne disproportionately by communities of color, is still growing.

Across the philanthropic sector, funders stepped up to meet the moment. We saw payouts increase, the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy, and commitments to flexible support from not only public and private foundations but also individual philanthropists who gave unrestricted billions.

A year ago, we all faced a rapidly changing reality — one that it made it hard to know what the next month, or next year might hold.  Now, we have turned a corner in a most consequential time in American democracy, a time that has been defined by the leadership of Black women and grassroots movements for social justice that are building the power of people — and these movements are just getting started. There is momentum for change, leadership that is solidly poised to make that change, and broad-based support for the bold solutions that will move us towards a more just and equitable society.  We are in a dramatically different time that continues to call for a dramatically different kind of philanthropy.

As we look back on this year of crisis, and see the opportunities before us now more clearly, how are funders being called to contribute to the change we know is needed?  To answer these questions, I point to the truths that remained when everything else fell away.

We have the power to change the rules.

In the early days of the pandemic, close to 800 foundations came together and pledged to provide their grantees with flexible funding and to remove burdens and barriers that divert them from their work. Restrictions on funding were waived, and additional funds were released. These changes were not the result of years-long strategic planning; instead, this was a rare example of strategic action. These quick shifts allowed movement leaders to be responsive to rapidly shifting needs. Grantees were more free to act holistically, to mobilize collectively, make shared demands, and achieve staggering change.

Today, our grantees are coping with the exhaustion, burnout, and trauma from this last year, the last four years, and even the last four hundred years. Recently, many of us have begun to invest more intentionally in the healing, sustainability, and wellness of our grantees. Systemic injustice takes a toll on a very individual human level, and as funders, we can and should resource our grantees to thrive.

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center, has urged philanthropy to, “Fund us like you want us to win.” Last year, we learned that we are capable of doing just that — and doing it without delay. Let’s build on funding practices that center relationships and shift power to our grantees.

White supremacy got us into this mess; racial justice will get us out.

Racial justice went mainstream in 2020 as the multiple crises exposed deep inequities and injustices in our midst. In the months after the world witnessed a police officer brutally murder George Floyd, many funders responded with explicit new commitments to fund Black-led racial justice work. These standalone funding commitments have been hailed as a turning point in philanthropy — a recognition of the importance of resourcing racial justice movements.

As we move forward, we must ensure that these newly made commitments are durable and not just crisis-driven. Movements should not have to rely on heartbreaking headlines to drive the flow of future resources. We can build on new funding commitments by centering racial justice in all our grantmaking. As resources begin to flow, let’s ensure that our frameworks are intersectional and include a gender analysis. To demonstrate a true desire to repair, heal, and build a multiracial democracy, philanthropy must do meaningful work in our institutions so that, at all levels, there is an understanding of the root causes of inequality and the importance of investing in racial justice.  Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, captured the centrality of this when he said, “We don’t get racial justice out of a true democracy. We get a true democracy out of racial justice.”

We know how to be “all in” when it's important. In this next period, it’s important.

With crisis as the rationalization, many endowed foundations were inspired to suspend a practice that our sector has long taken for granted: the 5% minimum distribution rule. In the face of compounding threats to our lives and our democracy, 64 individuals and foundations pledged to increase spending to 10% of the value of their endowment in 2020. And for the first time in years, the philanthropic sector is giving meaningful attention to the topic of spending decisions and the problem of treating the payout floor as though it is the ceiling.

To take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opening for transformation, funders must put all the tools in our toolbox behind our ambitious missions. Social justice philanthropy can build new spending models that are not only more responsive to the moment, but also set our institutions up to better fulfill our missions — today and in the long-term.

This past summer, 26 million people marched in the streets of their small and large cities to proclaim that Black lives matter. It was the largest mobilization in our country’s history. Last fall, despite numerous efforts to suppress voters, social justice organizers mobilized the largest voter turnout we’ve ever seen. Now, as a result, we are in a moment that holds immense possibility. 

In big and small ways, we are all changed by this year. 

Our sector and our practice of philanthropy has changed too.  Let’s claim the opportunity that is before us by reimagining our norms and adopting practices that will continue to catalyze transformation.  The old philanthropy has been exposed as unfit. The new philanthropy is ours to create.