by David Waggoner
January can be a downer month for so many reasons—especially if one lives as far north as I do. Blizzards, freezing rain, and other health hazards are enough to make me want to get the hell out of Albany. Alas, one has to put the nose to the grindstone; one has to forget that there is a lot of sunshine in San Diego (my hometown and where my mom is enjoying her senior years). I get to visit her over the holidays and we always have a lot of fun walking on the beach and basically just catching up.
It reminds me of Mark, my best friend from grad school, whose mother always sent me a Christmas card thanking me for keeping her son in the masthead even if he had died well over twenty years ago. But why wouldn’t I remember him in this way? He was there in the beginning for the magazine; his sage advice continues to guide me in so many ways in the running of A&U. I miss him; but his “voice” has been multiplied and heard in many of the hundreds of voices that have joined A&U to support the dedicated artists and writers who have contributed to the nearly quarter of a century of our publishing history.
Which brings me to a topic that I am loathe to discuss so early in the year and right after holiday presents: why people aren’t giving as much financial support to AIDS organizations as they once did. A new report by Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) showed that global private funding for HIV actually decreased by eight percent from 2012 levels. The report indicated that part of the decline was due to the closure of two large funders (The Irene Diamond Fund and The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund) as well as several pharmaceutical companies dedicating their philanthropic activities to diseases other than HIV/AIDS. It’s as if private and corporate donor fatigue was exacerbated by the changing priorities of both charities and the charitable at heart.
If this downward trend in giving continues, then 2015 will put greater pressure to change priorities, and even change the mission of many ASOs. I’ve heard that some AIDS organizations have broadened the list of diseases they now work on in order to win more funding. This so-called diversification is not a smart long-term strategy. More money, not more “disease diversity,” is the best way to bolster HIV prevention activities. So who are the five largest donors? According to the FCAA annual report they are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the M•A•C AIDS Fund, Gilead Sciences, Inc., the Wellcome Trust, and the Ford Foundation. Where are the consumer products companies? Only Chevron—an oil company—makes it into the top ten. And only twenty percent of the support has stayed in the United States!
What is needed is a greater diversity in the companies willing to dedicate their resources to HIV prevention efforts in the U.S. But the only way this will happen is if American companies wake up to the fact that many of their employees are concerned about HIV/AIDS, not only in African countries, where an additional 28 million will be infected by 2020 if current funding levels are not immediately reached, but here at home, as well.
At least we know we can depend on those who give of themselves. Our cover story interview with LaTonya Holmes proves that kindess multiplies. The singer, songwriter, and actress gives her time and talent to AIDS organizations, and even donates a portion of her recording proceeds to fight AIDS. “Let’s be there for the less fortunate and pray for a cure to heal this hurting world we live in from all diseases and destruction,” she shares with A&U’s Chael Needle. Others featured in this issue are dedicated to giving, too: Bill Bytsura, who shares photography of activists; David Rosenberg, whose Gays with Kids offers parenting support; and Jonathan Blake, who makes health justice a priority. Not to mention the folks at APLA Health and Wellness and REACH LA, who are coming up with innovative strategies to connect young people of color to care, as writer Larry Buhl finds out.
We need to give till it hurts. Well, as a saying, that doesn’t sound very life-affirming. How about this? Give till we heal.
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Published of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS magazine.