The case of the “anti-prostitution pledge” heading for the Supreme Court this month focuses on whether the requirement that groups funded by the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief create policies “explicitly” condemning prostitution is compatible with the First Amendment.
A brief filed Wednesday in the case asks also if the requirement is compatible with the interests of public health.
The filing Wednesday of an amici curiae brief from public health experts and organizations supporting the legal challenge to the “anti-prostitution pledge” asks the Supreme Court to uphold an appeals court’s injunction against the requirement, and to allow “the marketplace of ideas to continue generating best practices in the fight against HIV/AIDs, regardless of ideology.”
Sound public health strategies are discovered through both rigorous debate and empirical evidence, the brief argues, and results have shown that including people who are involved in sex work in the fight against AIDS is an effective strategy in combating the epidemic.
While the brief argues that enforcing the pledge requirement “would chill research, development, and discussion” producing effective strategies against the spread of HIV, it also gives a glimpse of what already has happened, on the ground, when overseas organizations were confronted with the requirement built into the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief that groups receiving its funds create policies opposing prostitution.
Citing organizations abroad that have shut down HIV-fighting programs, or returned U.S. money to avoid alienating vulnerable populations they sought to help, the brief says the “pledge” requirement not only could, but has stifled work to effectively combat the global HIV epidemic.
The issue of how to deal with prostitution is too complicated to be addressed by a “pledge,” the brief says, pointing out that the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women” which filed an amici curiae brief supporting the pledge argues for eliminating criminal sanctions against sex workers. This stance in itself “could be perceived as inconsistent with the pledge,” the public health brief notes.
The 33 signers of the public health brief include individuals — Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk, former Global Fund To Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria Director Michel Kazatchkine, former UNAIDS Director Peter Piot and groups, including amfAR, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Partners in Health, and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Disease Society of America.
The challenge to the pledge that the Supreme Court will hear was filed by Alliance for Open Society International in 2005, and subsequently joined by Pathfinder International, InterAction, and the Global Health Council.
For more background on the case, including a timeline and court filings, visit www.pledgechallenge.org
Below, questions of the First Amendment, as put by petitioner and respondents in the case: