Public/Private Partnerships and the President's National AIDS Policy

This May, President Obama's Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) held a meeting to discuss how to tackle the U.S. epidemic. What made this meeting different from past iterations was the diverse group of people in attendance -- government officials, private sector foundations, corporations as well as national advocacy and service organizations. ONAP will issue this country's first National AIDS Plan (The Plan) over the coming weeks incorporating the results of this meeting as well as town hall meetings that it has held in 14 cities. The Plan has enormous political significance and it has been a long time in coming. Under The President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was established by President Bush in 2003, the United States has required countries to have such a plan to receive U.S. funds for their HIV and AIDS programs. Yet 26 years into the epidemic, our country has never had one itself.

As a result, while there have been many bright spots in the HIV and AIDS prevention and services landscape, the overall domestic HIV and AIDS effort has not been as well coordinated or as strategic as the epidemic has demanded. We are fortunate to not have a generalized HIV epidemic, but we are losing the prevention war in too many communities. To cite just two compelling examples, today AIDS is the leading killer of black women of child-bearing age in our country, and Washington, D.C. has one of the highest rates of HIV infection of any nation's capital in the world.

The release of the Plan presents a much-needed and well-timed opportunity for more corporations to get more involved in this issue. Historically, it has been hard to convince most businesses outside of the pharmaceutical industry to give in-kind assets or funds to HIV and AIDS in the U.S. Today, however, there is a strong business case for how and why corporations can partner with the government domestically around HIV and AIDS. In fact, they can both do good in the world by improving business through consumer recognition of the importance of good corporate works in this arena.

Impact On the impact side, we have the key ingredients for high return on philanthropic investments in domestic HIV and AIDS issues, namely: 1) strong public leadership in key federal and local government positions; 2) the potential for targeted interventions in geographic and communal hot spots of the epidemic; and 3) multiple issues that donors can support to address the epidemic. Leadership On the federal level, The White House is literally and figuratively listening. I have been in this field for over 20 years, and I have never seen an administration that has so quickly and so bravely made the necessary policy changes to enable good HIV work in the service, care and prevention trenches. Changes like lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs and integrating PEPFAR into all other forms of U.S. international aid under the State department have both legitimated HIV prevention work and lifted barriers to public funding. This leadership at the federal as well as the local level is critical to successful funding strategies since the business of health care in HIV and AIDS or any disease is ultimately the business of government. So to be sustainable, any new program must be designed and evaluated with government support as the final goal.

We also have very talented and engaged local leadership at the mayoral and departmental level in key cities that have high rates of HIV infection. As just one example, at the MAC AIDS Fund, we are partnering in Washington D.C. with Mayor Fenty, Dr. Shannon Hader, who oversees the District's HIV and AIDS programs, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and several other corporate funders on an innovative female condom initiative that has been enormously well-received in the media and among women and service providers in the targeted neighborhoods. Since the program launched on March 10 of this year, over 11,400 female condoms have been distributed and over 2,325 women have been educated generally about HIV prevention and specifically how to use the female condom.

Targeted, High-Impact Interventions Although this Administration has inherited what I would call an AIDS prevention funding deficit, we are also fortunate that we do not have a generalized HIV epidemic in the U.S. This means that targeted HIV prevention interventions in cities like Washington D.C., New York City, San Francisco and Miami and certain communities such as men who have sex with men (MSM), black women and injection drug users can make an enormous and measurable difference over a relatively short period of time.

Opportunity for Multiple Points of Entry Lastly, as a field, we are gaining a greater understanding not just of effective HIV programs, but how to address HIV in the context of the poverty as well as the inequities and violence that make people vulnerable to HIV infection. Potential donors can therefore enter the field of HIV and AIDS funding through an existing funding stream like micro-enterprise, gender-based violence or human rights.

Cause Alignment In the past, since HIV is a behavior-based disease, many companies shied away from funding in the area. At MAC Cosmetics, however, we have seen that the level of shame and stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS is on the decline and the engagement of the general public in HIV prevention is on the rise. Our recent Viva Glam campaign with Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper has been by far the most successful in our company's history. In just three months since we launched the campaign and the product has been on our counters, we have raised $3 million just from those two products in the U.S. alone. Clearly, people, particularly young people, listen to rock stars in a way they do not listen to the Surgeon General!

We have also seen that female consumers and employees are very engaged in HIV and AIDS as an issue. Sadly, HIV is now the leading cause of death of black women ages 18 to 35 and these women are increasingly aware of this and responsive to companies working to combat the disease. A recent study by Schoen showed that over 75 percent of male and female consumers are more likely to purchase a product and even pay more for one that is made by a company whose values they admire and who are donating the funds to a good cause. And that number is even higher for female consumers.

If MAC's business is any indication, HIV and AIDS is one such good cause. Indeed, we have seen that the rising Viva Glam tide has lifted all brand boats in that when the VG campaigns are successful the entire brand's performance is improved. We are happy to be a leader in corporate giving to HIV and AIDS, but we would love more company and competition in being a top corporate donor in the field in the U.S. There is so much more good work that we could achieve in this field through public/private partnerships if we could leverage more corporate in kind assets and donor dollars.

Based on remarks made at The White House Panel on the Role of Public Private Partnerships in The National HIV/AIDS Strategy on May 13, 2010.