The U.S. Supreme Court case Agency for International Development v. Alliance for the Open Society Institute International is a landmark case for individuals working on alleviating the impact of the HIV epidemic throughout the world. The case found that the “anti prostitution loyalty oath” mandated by USAID compelled U.S.-based organizations to take the government position on prostitution, making it unconstitutional. This oath resulted in the defunding of HIV organizations serving sex workers. Further, it conflates all sex work with trafficking. Projects serving sex workers do not see all sex work as trafficking. Instead, by recognizing the reality that sex work continues regardless of attempts to halt it, they seek to make sex work safer. In practical terms, the effect of this decision means that sex worker organizations around the world will now be able to seek funding from USAID (and USAID contractors) without having to sign a pledge that alienated the very communities they were working with.
The decision is a first step in the right direction. The outcome moves the U.S. government closer towards accomplishing the goal of eradicating HIV by bringing its policies in line with its goals rather than undermining itself. A contradiction that perhaps, most remarkably, was visible on the website of major USAID contractors (with the USAID and President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) logos emblazoned on the website) featured sex worker projects as case studies for HIV interventions that have “helped marginalized groups help one another” and “… prevent exposure to HIV….” while the anti-prostitution loyalty oath was in place.