The U.S. Supreme Court case Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment v. Alliance for the Open Society Insti­tute Inter­na­tional is a land­mark case for indi­vid­uals working on alle­vi­ating the impact of the HIV epi­demic throughout the world. The case found that the “anti pros­ti­tu­tion loy­alty oath” man­dated by USAID com­pelled U.S.-based orga­ni­za­tions to take the gov­ern­ment posi­tion on pros­ti­tu­tion, making it uncon­sti­tu­tional. This oath resulted in the defunding of HIV orga­ni­za­tions serving sex workers. Fur­ther, it con­flates all sex work with traf­ficking. Projects serving sex workers do not see all sex work as traf­ficking. Instead, by rec­og­nizing the reality that sex work con­tinues regard­less of attempts to halt it, they seek to make sex work safer. In prac­tical terms, the effect of this deci­sion means that sex worker orga­ni­za­tions around the world will now be able to seek funding from USAID (and USAID con­trac­tors) without having to sign a pledge that alien­ated the very com­mu­ni­ties they were working with.

The deci­sion is a first step in the right direc­tion. The out­come moves the U.S. gov­ern­ment closer towards accom­plishing the goal of erad­i­cating HIV by bringing its poli­cies in line with its goals rather than under­mining itself. A con­tra­dic­tion that per­haps, most remark­ably, was vis­ible on the web­site of major USAID con­trac­tors (with the USAID and President’s Emer­gency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) logos embla­zoned on the web­site) fea­tured sex worker projects as case studies for HIV inter­ven­tions that have “helped mar­gin­al­ized groups help one another” and “… pre­vent expo­sure to HIV.…” while the anti-​​prostitution loy­alty oath was in place.

 

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