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24 July 2007
America's Prostitution Phobia Hindering HIV Control

US funding for HIV prevention or control programs requires organizations to explicitly condemn prostitution, a requirement that public health experts say is hindering efforts to control the global HIV epidemic. The journal PLoS Medicine carries the findings of Nicole Franck Masenior and Chris Beyrer, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who reviewed existing scientific evidence on strategies to reduce rates of HIV among sex workers.

They found a substantial body of published studies suggesting that the empowerment, organization, and unionization of sex workers can be an effective HIV prevention strategy and can reduce the other harms associated with prostitution.

"While sex work may be exploitative," noted the researchers, "sex worker advocates and HIV prevention program leaders generally concur that sex workers themselves need services, protection, peer outreach, and support from health professionals to reduce their risk of HIV infection." The anti-prostitution pledge, they say, places funding restrictions on those HIV programs that have policies calling for decriminalization or legalization of sex work.

The pledge's application to privately funded activities has led to ongoing legal challenges of its constitutionality by a number of organizations involved in HIV prevention and treatment. The findings were presented in a declaration for the court in the case of Alliance for Open Society International versus the US Agency for International Development.

Related articles:
HIV Exploding In Tijuana
HIV Testing Should Be Routine, Say Physicians
Success Of HIV Therapy May Discourage Safe Sex

Source: Public Library of Science

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