UK organisations are being asked to submit plans for innovative programmes that address stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS and the link between those factors and prevention, care and treatment for the disease.

The MAC AIDS Fund is the philanthropic arm of Estée Lauder-owned M·A·C Cosmetics.

It has pledged £250,000 in new grant money to fight the problem nationally.

A nine-country MAC AIDS Fund survey released in November found that respondents from the UK ranked stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS as the number one problem contributing to the spread of the disease.

Earlier this week a group of AIDS “thought-leaders” met in London to discuss the next level of solutions to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK.

The multi-national survey revealed that 93 percent of British respondents do not rank HIV/AIDS as a top national health concern, even though new HIV diagnoses in the UK have nearly tripled over the past 10 years.

“What we heard from the public – in the UK and around the world – is that stereotype and prejudice are limiting progress against HIV and AIDS as much today as 25-plus years ago, when the disease first emerged,” said Nancy Mahon, executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund.

“The initiative we are announcing will quickly put funding in the hands of people on the ground in the UK who are standing up to promote fairness, compassion and education in the fight against AIDS.

“This is about solutions, and we are looking for people and organisations who can deliver.”

The panel that met in London comprised of Elhadj Amadou Sy, Director of Partnerships for UNAIDS;

Steven Inman, Head of Grants and Projects for Crusaid;

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust;

Paul Gambaccini, Radio/Entertainment Personality for BBC;

Angelina Namiba, Policy and Involvement Manager for Positively Women and a MAC AIDS Fund Grantee;

and Jane Anderson, Director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV at Homerton Hospital.

They focused their discussion on three issue areas: stigma and shame, access to treatment and women.

“As we consider the state of the growing AIDS epidemic in the UK, it is important that we maintain a baseline for our discussion,” said Ms Namiba.

“The facts that so many of Britons reported in the MAC AIDS Fund survey the persistence of stigma and shame around HIV and AIDS and gross misunderstanding of the prognosis of the disease proves that we have a lot of re-education to do here.”

Fifty-four percent of respondents in the UK did not understand that AIDS is always fatal or are unsure, according to the November survey conducted in the UK, the United States, France, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.

More details on how to apply for funding can be found online at www.macaidsfund.org or at the MAC AIDS Fund’s London office: 75 Grosvenor Street, London W1K 3BQ/tel. 0870 034 6895.

The Fund will be accepting applications for grants until 2nd May 2008.