May 19, 2005 – More than 200 public health and human rights groups and individuals concerned about HIV/AIDS prevention around the world urged the Bush administration Wednesday to drop its requirement that domestic and international organizations receiving US funds institute policies opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.
In a press statement, the groups - including Human Rights Watch, the Network of Sex Work Projects and the Center for Health and Gender Equity - reported they sent a letter to President Bush explaining that the provision undermines HIV/AIDS prevention efforts by hindering their efforts to help some of the people considered most at risk: sex workers and victims of trafficking. The groups claim that those populations are less likely to seek aid if they become more marginalized.
The 2003 Global AIDS Act and amendments to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act originally mandated all foreign-based organizations receiving US HIV/AIDS prevention funds to include such policies. The government exempted international groups that receive just some of their funds from the US, along with US-based grassroots organizations doing HIV/AIDS work overseas.
However, the Department of Justice recently argued that the restriction does apply to US-based organizations operating abroad. Critics posit that the requirement violates groupsâ€™ right to free speech under the First Amendment.