What does the decision of a US court sitting in New York have to do with our HIV work here in Africa? Turns out a lot. Yesterday the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the US government cannot require organisations receiving funding for their HIV work to sign a statement denouncing prostitution. Now to be clear, the US is permitted to refuse to fund activities that advocate for the legalisation of sex work. But two judges on the Second Circuit found that the extra step–requiring organisations to proactively denounce prostitution regardless of what the money was being used for–violated their rights to free speech. The Court reasoned that requiring an organisation to publicly support the government’s viewpoint was an infringement of the right to free speech.
However before we all put on our party hats, the ruling only applies to US organisations and not organisations based outside of the US who rely on US funding for critical HIV work. We need to build on this work and ensure that the anti-prostitution pledge is removed for all organisations regardless of where they are based.
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