SECTION27 welcomes the United States Supreme Court decision in USAID vs AOSI
24 June 2013
SECTION27 welcomes the judgment from the Supreme Court of the United States in USAID v AOSI. The judgment held that a law that required organisations to condemn sex work in order to be eligible for funding for HIV related work was an unconstitutional violation of the first amendment right to freedom of speech. The judgment opens the door for much needed and previously prohibited work to realize the rights of sex workers and other people living with HIV or at risk of becoming infected with HIV.
Many South African organisations and health care providers depend on funds from the United States to conduct work around HIV. On 20 June 2013, the Court struck down a US law requiring that no such funds could be used by an organisation “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution”.
The requirement silenced organisations and health care providers on the front lines of the fight against HIV and hamstrung their ability to effectively work with a group of people that are especially impacted by HIV. For example, until now, such organisations were unable to advocate for the decriminalization of sex work—a much needed change in the law that will be instrumental in the fight against HIV.
The South African National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIS and TB 2012 – 2016 (NSP) identifies sex workers as a “vulnerable population” and calls for special interventions to treat and prevent HIV in and amongst people involved in sex work. The judgment is a major development in enabling such prevention and treatment in line with the NSP. Organisations that depend on funds from the United States will no longer be silenced about their views on sex workers’ rights and criminal laws that victimize sex workers.
SECTION27 welcomes the decision and celebrates new opportunities in the struggle for the right to health.