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Exempt from - and fighting - AIDS fund rules

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March 4, 2008

NOT EVERY organization is required to comply with the anti-prostitution restrictions attached to the US government's global HIV/AIDS funding ("Deal reached on funding AIDS program," Page A15, Feb. 28). Two organizations, Pathfinder International and the Alliance for Open Society International, are currently exempt from the requirement, following a federal court ruling that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Our lawsuit does not challenge the government's right to restrict the use of public funds. However, the pledge forces groups to adopt an organization-wide policy, thereby restricting how organizations use their own private funds. We believed this to be in violation of the Constitution, and the judge agreed, placing the two organizations under protective order while the case is on appeal.

In forcing organizations to "oppose prostitution," the government has failed to explain exactly what is required. Public health organizations working with commercial sex workers to combat HIV/AIDS are at risk. Absent needed clarity, organizations don't know how to comply with the rules, and risk losing funding.

Health policies based on ideology tie the hands of health workers, and leave healthcare providers vulnerable to political posturing and congressional whim. That's why we challenged the government's anti-prostitution pledge.

DANIEL E. PELLEGROM
President
Pathfinder International
Watertown

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