Russian AIDS Conference Organizers ‘Express Concern’ Over Ability of NGO Consortium To Administer Global Fund Grant
Organizers of the 12th AIDS, Cancer and Related Problems Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, have issued a joint statement "express[ing] concern" about a consortium of nongovernmental organizations that was awarded a five-year, $88 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in its third round of grants, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Andrei Kozlov, director of the Biomedical Center, which sponsored the conference last month, said he "questioned the legitimacy" of the five organizations -- the Open Health Institute, AIDS Foundation East-West, AIDS Infoshare, Focus-Media and Population Services International -- which acted in place of a Country Coordinating Mechanism in applying for the Global Fund grant, the Times reports. Global Fund guidelines call for a CCM consisting of government ministries and NGOs to apply for grants, according to the Times. However, Russia did not have a CCM for the third round of grants, so the fund allowed the consortium to apply for the money. "These NGOs which applied and 'sort of' received this grant have been working in their areas for only a short time," Kozlov said, adding, "Some of them became organized recently and have not made a major impact; they cannot represent Russia. But the Global Fund is giving this huge amount of money -- this raises questions." Marty Bell, head of the Russia mission for AIDS Foundation East-West, said that the Global Fund money would be used for programs "already operating." He added, "There's no risk of us not being able to carry it out." The grant is expected to fund 30 different programs throughout Russia, according to Bell.
Conference participants also questioned how the Global Fund grant would be distributed to various regions and how the funding would be used, according to the Times. The joint statement expressed concern that "$19 million is indicated to be used for drugs, but only $1 million of it is planned to be spent on antiretrovirals" and that "$10 million is budgeted for administrative costs." However, Bell said that the figures cited by the conference organizers were not "quite right," according to the Times. A grant agreement for $31 million over two years is expected to be signed later this month, and the consortium then will develop a disbursement plan, the Times reports. Russia since has formed a CCM, which includes the NGO consortium, in preparation for the Global Fund's fourth round of grants, which the fund is expected to announce at the end of the month (Kozuharov, St. Petersburg Times, 6/8).