The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on June 9 that the United States will require all American organizations to pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking in order to be eligible for U.S. funds to combat HIV/AIDS in the developing world. This policy applies to all U.S. assistance from all government sources under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In response to public pressure, the administration backed down from its earlier version of the policy and will not require United Nations agencies or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to enforce the new U.S. "loyalty oath."
Since 2003, all foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seeking U.S. global HIV/AIDS funds have been required to take this pledge and now, for the first time, the limitation is being imposed upon U.S. organizations. The Justice Department previously had concluded that “forcing speech” in exchange for U.S. government funding could unconstitutionally violate the First Amendment, which guarantees U.S. citizens the right to free speech, including the right not to speak. On August 11, DKT International – a U.S.-based social marketing organization that provides family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention services worldwide - filed suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. challenging the constitutionality of this pledge after losing US government support for its HIV prevention activities in Vietnam.
U.S.-based as well as international NGOs and indigenous groups are subject to this ideological litmus test to determine an organization's suitability as a partner with the United States in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Beyond compromising the free-speech rights of Americans, this provision undoubtedly will impede the ability of both U.S. and foreign NGOs to gain the trust of commercial sex workers and their partners and thus may prevent effective work with this group, which is at particularly high risk for HIV infection.
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