Anti-Prostitution Pledge Ruling

The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on July 6, 2011, upheld a ruling that the federal government cannot force HIV/AIDS-prevention grant recipients to certify their agreement with the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act’s anti-prostitution statement.   Often referred to as the “anti-prostitution pledge,” it reads: ‘No funds made available to carry out this Act may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, except that this subsection shall not apply to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency.’

InterAction, in collaboration with four other organizations, brought suit against the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arguing that the regulation was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment rights of U.S. based non-profits. NASW is a member of InterAction.  

The lawsuit stated that the “pledge” was bad policy, because it restricts agencies from providing HIV/AIDS-related education and services to a particularly vulnerable population.  For example, enforcement of the pledge resulted in U.S. based NGOs limiting services to sex workers, including harm reduction education and the distribution of condoms. In the NASW Social Work Speaks policy statement on HIV/AIDS, the social work profession specifically calls for the elimination of inequities or obstacles that limit access to education, prevention services, care and treatment; as well as the role of social workers as advocate to improve the quality of life and protect the civil rights of persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. 

The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act (the Leadership Act) was passed by Congress in 2003 with the intent to strengthen and enhance United States leadership and the effectiveness of the United States response to the HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria pandemics.  This policy requirement exempts the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or any United Nations agency.

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