Why a Giant Pharma Funder Cares About Empowering Girls and Women in Africa

Adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 19 reportedly account for some 74 percent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. That's a heartbreaking statistic, which is why it's good to know that one major funder that's been in the HIV fight for decades, Johnson & Johnson, is sticking with this effort. On World AIDS Day, the company announced four new public-private partnerships through its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutical.

The goal, according to Alex Gorsky, Chair and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, is to “make HIV history.” J&J’s latest commitment—which includes collaborations with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM)—is likely to make some headway toward that end.

Related: Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies: Grants for Global Health

Bringing an end to HIV isn’t the only global health and development matter Johnson & Johnson has its eye on, here. Another goal—which is both related and important in itself—is empowering young girls and women.

It's hardly a new idea that empowering girls and women is a key to reducing HIV infections. Research going back years has linked HIV and gender inequities, and various funders have worked this angle over time, often with an eye on the many other benefits that accrue from female empowerment. But grantmaking to this end tends to ebb and flow, as funders change priorities, grants run their course, and so on. We're always happy when new money is flowing. 

For its part, Janssen is committing up to $15 million over two-years to PEPFAR’s DREAM initiative. The commitment is dedicated to empowering adolescent girls across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa through various programs including access to treatment and prevention efforts. Two heavy hitters in the global female empowerment movement that are also collaborators in the DREAM initiative are the Gates Foundation and Girl Effect.

The Girl Effect is a $100 million empowerment movement led by the Nike and NoVo foundations. In late 2015, the Girl Effect became an independent organization that continues to fight to empower the hundreds-of-millions of girls around the world who are living in poverty.

Johnson & Johnson’s philanthropic arm has been supporting projects that work to save and improve the lives of women and children in some of the world’s most fragile states. A heavy focus here is HIV prevention and treatment as well as prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child. Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceutical, and the Johnson & Johnson Foundation strongly emphasize the continuum of care in this regard.

This latest joint effort remains focused on maintaining that continuum of HIV care. In this latest collaboration, J&J has picked up some powerful partners in its continuing fight on the frontlines of the global HIV/AIDS battle.