Ideology Continues to Trump HIV Prevention
SEP. 2007 • Issue 6
The gag rule. The loyalty oath. Where did it come from and what does it mean to people at risk for HIV?
In 2003, Congress passed the Global AIDS Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which bar the use of federal funds to “promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution.” These laws require any organization applying for or receiving U.S. funding to combat global HIV/AIDS or human trafficking (forced labor) to sign a statement that it “does not promote, support, or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution” – parroting the lawmakers’ words.
Organizations that distribute U.S. funding to sub-grantees must ensure that those groups also comply with the oath. Organizations that have to adopt the policy include foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receiving U.S. HIV/AIDS funds and U.S.-based NGOs working abroad.
These funding restrictions are in line with similar – and ever-increasing – efforts to force organizations working in public health to comply with ideological litmus tests that often actually hurt public health practice – and betray human rights standards.
With this policy, the U.S. government has increased stigma and discrimination against sex workers in their home countries. In Thailand, for example, it has led to the breakdown of successful activist coalitions and joint HIV prevention efforts, as groups that were previously allies will no longer work with sex worker groups. Lost funding worldwide has led to serious condom shortages for sex workers. Veteran activists against forced labor within sex work are tarred as supporting human trafficking. And drop-in centers that provided many homeless sex workers with a place to bathe, nap, and find a sense of home and family have closed due to the loss of funds. Their families have been torn apart. People who were active in community HIV prevention can no longer find each other.
U.S. policies run contrary to best practices in public health and undermine efforts to stem the spread of HIV and forced labor.
Thanks to the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and “Taking the Pledge”