DOJ Appeals Ruling Against Requirement That Groups Receiving HIV/AIDS Funding Condemn Commercial Sex Work
The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia over a federal court decision that ruled a U.S. policy requiring recipients of federal HIV/AIDS service grants to pledge to oppose commercial sex work violates the groups' First Amendment right to free speech, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/10). U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in May in Washington, D.C., ruled the policy requiring the pledge unconstitutional. The Bush administration in June 2005 notified U.S. organizations providing HIV/AIDS-related services in other countries that they must sign the pledge 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." DKT International, a not-for-profit organization that provides family planning services in 11 countries, sued USAID over the policy. DKT officials said they would not sign the pledge because the group runs condom distribution programs for sex workers in Vietnam and signing the pledge would stigmatize and alienate their clients (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/19). The DOJ on Tuesday in its appeal called the policy "highly germane" to the overarching objective in curbing the spread of HIV. The appeal added, "Congress could reasonably determine that the government's efforts to stamp out prostitution and sex trafficking would be most successful if HIV/AIDS services are provided by organizations that affirmatively oppose two underlying causes of the disease." A date for arguments in the appeal has not been scheduled (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.