GENEVA--The Global Fund is seeking PR agency support to help regain credibility following a difficult year at the world’s largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB and malaria programmes.

The Holmes Report understands that at least four firms, including a mix of networks and UK independents, are pitching for the business in Geneva, following an initial RFP earlier this year. The review follows sustained scrutiny and allegations regarding corruption and misuse of funds at the global health body, amid reports that it is facing a severe funding shortfall,

The three-year contract is believed to be worth around $400K per year.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. At the end of 2010, it had approved funding of US$21.7 billion, supporting more than 600 programmes in 150 countries.

Revelations regarding misuse of funds have caused some countries to suspend donations until the completion of an audit in 2011. A Global Fund internal investigation also identified 13 countries, most in Africa, where several million dollars' worth of antimalarial drugs had been stolen and presumably sold on the black market.

In response, the Global Fund is currently formulating a reform programme, which will be rolled out in early 2012, and requires a strong communications element to help the organisation reposition itself as a an efficient channel of resources, amid austere economic conditions.

In addition, the financial crisis has contributed to a funding shortfall at the body. In 2012, a mid-term meeting for donors will be used to highlight this shortfall. Accordingly, making the case for additional resources will form a central part of its communications strategy.

According to the RFP, the organisation is seeking a support for PR, crisis comms and media training. Counsel is being sought in such areas as development finance, poverty reduction, global public health and health systems. “More specifically, the contractor shall provide services that address the ways in which these issues impact the organization's work in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” adds the brief.

The Global Fund has worked with Hill & Knowlton in the past. It is understood that the firm is involved in the pitch, along with Edelman, Finsbury and Freud Communications.

The Global Fund did not respond to request for comment as this story went live.