Claims That USAID Supports Sex Work in Russia ‘False,’ Assistant Administrator Says
The assertions made in an Oct. 31 article in the Washington Times that USAID programs in Russia support sex work are "false, and it is unfortunate that USAID was not called for comment before the story ran," Kent Hill, assistant administrator of USAID's Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, writes in a Times letter to the editor (Hill, Washington Times, 11/11). Sixteen members of the Moscow City Duma -- the city's lower house of parliament -- in a letter sent on Oct. 8 to Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the city that only promote safe sex could "encourag[e] young women to choose prostitution as a career," which is "morally unconscionable," the Washington Times reported (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/31). However, USAID's policy guidelines prohibit funding from going to groups that promote or advocate for the legalization of prostitution, Hill says, adding, "Either the organizations cited in the article are not funded by USAID/Russia or they are not engaged in the activities cited." In order to confront Russia's HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is necessary to work with "high-risk populations such as prostitutes, but this in no way should be construed as support for their activities," Hill says. The goal of USAID is to "save the lives of children, spouses and others threatened by AIDS," Hill says, concluding, "Such careful and defined humanitarian interventions must never be equated with support for the legalization or regularization of prostitution" (Washington Times, 11/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.