Dignitas International Winding Down

Sadly, Dignitas International, a Canadian humanitarian organization that has done extraordinary work with HIV/AIDs in Malawi is being wound up. I have worked very closely with them. Among other things, they tested 1.7 million people for Aids (10% of the population) and put 300000 people on life saving ARVs. It was started by James Fraser and James Orbinski.

I urge you to view the video at the end of the letter. An incredible story of what 2 committed people can do.


Dear Friends,

I am writing to let you know that after 15 years of incredible work Dignitas will be wrapping up its operations. I am so incredibly proud of the work that Dignitas has done and the impact that our work has had on the people of Malawi and, more recently, in Canada’s Indigenous communities. Indeed, while there is still much work to be done, Malawi is a different place today than it was when Dignitas was first established to help combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. That’s a good news story!

For me personally, it has been an incredible journey of learning and expanding empathy coupled with the great reward of friendships. Dignitas was built by good people with honourable intentions, enormous creativity, and an abundance of compassion for those who have far less than us. I am so honoured to have been part of its journey and I am so grateful to all of you who have supported me throughout.

Thanks for all the years of attending Give a Day Harambees, Dignitas movie nights, Pivot Group events, and for listening to me talk about this little country in Africa that has had such an impact on me. It has meant the world.

When you have a quiet moment, I hope that you will take the time to watch this amazing film that tells our story better than I ever could.




Also, attached is a letter from the Board of Directors.

With deepest gratitude,

Jennifer Keenan
Chair, Board of Directors
Dignitas International


Letter From Board oF Directors:

Dear Friends of Dignitas,

RE: Wind Down of Dignitas International

In 2003, Dignitas International began in Toronto as an emergency humanitarian response to the AIDS pandemic in the poorest corner of the poorest country in the world. The founding principle was to build capacity in an under-resourced health care system and generate research that would demonstrate the efficacy of our community-based health care model and contribute to better solutions for vulnerable populations around the world that were being decimated by the HIV virus. 

For 15 years Dignitas fulfilled this mandate, punching far above its weight as a small but incredibly nimble NGO. During this period, Dignitas made significant contributions to global health: we have helped more than 1.7 million people get tested for HIV; we have started more than 300,000 people on HIV treatment; we have trained 12,000+ health workers, and have contributed to nearly 100 major scientific publications. We are particularly proud of the work we have done in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Also, more recently, our model of health care system strengthening has been used in partnership with Indigenous communities in Canada – a testament to the global impact of our work.

As our project grew and gained traction, USAID became the primary funder of our field work. Unfortunately, in 2018, we were advised that this funding would come to an end partly due to changes in the priorities of the American government. Our reliance on a single donor in Malawi had always been a cause for concern and we put tremendous effort in diversifying our donor base. Ultimately alternate diversified sources of funding we needed to replace USAID were not obtained.

In light of this situation, in early 2019 the Board of Directors of Dignitas decided that our current projects and research programs would be better supported within larger international organizations or universities. As well, our front-line work in Malawi can now be carried out by the Malawian Ministry of Health, which reflects in part our work in building local capacity, and other international NGOs.

The decision to wind down our operations was a difficult one and every effort has been made to mitigate any damages or disruption to the people we serve, as well as our staff, partners and donors. We are proud to announce that nearly all programs and associate funds will transfer to partners or collaborators of Dignitas, together with many of our staff.

We wish to thank the many donors who have been with us on this journey. Rest assured, the work we have done together will continue to make a difference in the lives of millions of people.

If you have any questions or wish to have information about how you can continue to support a specific program or project in its new home, please feel free to contact me. Once again, from the entire Board of Directors and the staff of Dignitas, thank you.


Jennifer Keenan
Chair, Board of Directors
Dignitas International

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