Health officials in Brazil say they have refused $40 million in AIDS grants from the United States to protest a Bush administration requirement that all international agencies receiving U.S. funding sign a pledge to condemn commercial sex work, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Administration requires any group receiving U.S. funding, even those that have no outreach programs for sex workers or address sex work in any way, to make a written pledge opposing sex work. Groups that don't sign the pledge could lose U.S. funding.
Brazilian officials last week wrote to the leadership of the U.S. Agency for International Development to refuse the remainder of a $48 million AIDS grant that began in 2003 and was scheduled to continue through 2008. The U.S. grants would have included $190,000 for eight groups that conduct HIV prevention and treatment efforts for sex workers. Although those groups agreed to use U.S. money only for HIV education and prevention efforts, they refused to be bullied by the Bush administration into condemning sex work and sex workers.
Brazil's top AIDS officials say that because the country's HIV prevention and treatment model includes groups like sex workers, injection-drug users, and gay men, submitting to the Bush administration's demands would hurt--not help--HIV efforts in the country. "We can't control [the disease] with principles that are Manichaean, theological, fundamentalist, and Shiite," Pedro Chequer, director of Brazil's AIDS program and chair of the national commission that decided to refuse the grants, told the Journal. He added that Brazilian health officials view the Bush administration's policy as one that interferes with Brazilian efforts to promote diversity, ethical principles, and human rights. Chequer says Brazil will boost spending on the programs to make up for lost U.S. funding.
Right-wing members of Congress say the money earmarked for Brazil will likely go to other countries that bow to Bush administration pressure to condemn sex work. "Obviously, Brazil has the right to act however it chooses in this regard," Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, told the Journal. But he said he agrees that nations receiving U.S. aid should oppose sex work. "We're talking about promotion of prostitution, which the majority of both the House and Senate believe is harmful to women."