Open Society Institute Files Lawsuit Against USAID Challenging Policy Requiring Pledge Against Commercial Sex Work
The Open Society Institute, which was founded by billionaire financier George Soros, on Friday filed a lawsuit against USAID over a U.S. policy requiring that recipients of federal HIV/AIDS service grants pledge to oppose commercial sex work, the Wall Street Journal reports (Harwood, Wall Street Journal, 9/23). The Bush administration in June notified U.S. organizations providing HIV/AIDS-related services in other countries that they must sign a pledge opposing commercial sex work and sex trafficking to be considered for federal funding. The policy stems from two 2003 laws, including an amendment to legislation (HR 1298) authorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that prohibits funds from going to any group or organization that does not have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/10). According to OSI, the pledge requirement "undermines efforts to provide lifesaving services and information to sex workers, who are at significant risk of infection and can also transmit HIV to others." The group also says the requirement is unconstitutional because it "requires private organizations to adopt the government's point of view in order to receive funding" and is "unconstitutionally vague and therefore allows the law to be applied arbitrarily" (OSI release, 9/23). Washington, D.C.-based DKT International, a not-for-profit organization that provides HIV/AIDS prevention services to commercial sex workers worldwide, last month filed a similar lawsuit against USAID, saying the requirement violates the group's right to free speech. In its court filing, DKT said that being required to publicly endorse the Bush administration's "political viewpoint" on commercial sex work violates the First Amendment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.