For Immediate Release
Joana Casas, Program Communications Manager
NEW YORK, June 20, 2013—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research on Thursday praised a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that finds a decade-old amendment requiring groups receiving federal funds through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to adopt policies opposing prostitution, unconstitutional (United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, 12-10). The law, implemented in 2003, has hampered organizational outreach to sex workers and their clients—populations that are at high risk of HIV infection.
In a vote of 6-2, the justices ruled that the law's anti-prostitution pledge improperly restricts First Amendment rights.
Challenging the anti-prostitution pledge, a group of more than 200 organizations including amfAR questioned in an amicus brief filed in April whether the policy is compatible with the First Amendment as well as the interests of public health. It argued that including people involved in sex work in the fight against AIDS is an effective strategy in combating the epidemic.
“Today the Supreme Court announced a decision that is a victory for human rights and global health,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “Lifting the ban on the anti-prostitution pledge will get us closer to controlling the AIDS epidemic by providing better access to prevention and treatment services for an underserved population disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.”
According to UNAIDS, sex workers are roughly eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than other adults. However, targeted efforts to provide HIV prevention services for sex workers have been shown to help bring national epidemics under control. For example, condom promotion efforts helped reduce HIV prevalence among sex workers in Thailand from 33 percent in 1994 to five percent in 2007.
“PEPFAR operates in many countries where sex workers are socially and legally marginalized, but funding to address HIV among these populations has typically come from external sources, not the countries themselves,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Chris Collins. “The anti-prostitution pledge was a major barrier for many organizations providing essential health programs and important resources for this population, and we hope that this decision will spur real progress toward ending the epidemic.”
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide. For more information, please visit www.amfar.org.