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AIDS Activists March In Washington, India To Protest Marginalization Of Sex Workers, Drug Users

“AIDS activists gathering in Washington, D.C., and Kolkata, India, this week have denounced conditions attached to U.S. global AIDS funding, which they say have damaged the response to the epidemic by further marginalizing sex workers — among those hardest hit” by the epidemic, the Guardian reports. “International organizations that receive funds through [PEPFAR] must sign an ‘anti-prostitution pledge’ prohibiting them from doing anything that could be perceived as supporting sex work,” the news service notes. According to the Guardian, “U.S. organizations that receive PEPFAR money are no longer bound by the pledge, after successfully taking the government to court on the basis that the conditions attached to funding violate first amendment rights,” but “organizations outside the U.S. are still required to sign it” (Provost, 7/25).

In Washington on Tuesday, “more than 1,000 sex workers, drug users and AIDS activists … marched toward the White House to protest the stigma associated with their activities, a stigma they believe contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS,” ABC News writes, adding, “The march was one of five protests that joined — in front of the White House — different groups affected by HIV and AIDS” (Blaine, 7/24). “Thirteen AIDS activists [participating in the march in Washington] were arrested outside the White House after tying dollar bills and pill bottles to the executive mansion’s fence and calling for better funding of HIV and AIDS programs,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports (7/25).