The policy was set in place in June by USAID, an independent federal government agency, and comes with many far-reaching stipulations, including a clampdown on sex workers and a public endorsement of abstinence.
Harvey, who got his start in the adult industry in the 1970s, filed the lawsuit in the District Court of Columbia through his family-based nonprofit organization DKT International, challenging USAIDS’ requirement that U.S. and foreign non-governmental organizations currently receiving U.S. funding to fight HIV/AIDS adopt the policy or risk losing funding altogether.
Harvey and his organization DKT, which manages contraceptive social marketing programs for family planning and AIDS prevention in eleven countries, claims that working to eliminate the impact of HIV/AIDS requires "work with persons at highest risk of infection, including those in the sex trades.”
But after refusing to adopt USAID’s stringent policy requirements that reject support of sex workers, DKT was denied funding to support an AIDS-prevention initiative in Vietnam.
Harvey is seeking injunctive relief in order to resume work in Vietnam.
“The U.S. government’s ‘anti-prostitution’ policy does a grave disservice to international AIDs-prevention programs and to those who carry them out,” Harvey said. “The policy does no good and is clearly doing considerable harm.”
The new policy stems from two 2003 laws, one involving HIV/AIDS funding and another regarding sex trafficking. Similar to the government’s blurring of the lines between child pornography as a form of child exploitation and sexually explicit adult content for consenting adults, the Bush policy blurs the lines between the sex trafficking trade and prostitution, two very different issues, critics assert.
Many critics of the policy claim it is one of President Bush’s attempts to instill his Christian fundamentalist “pro life” political views on the rest of the world under the auspice of stopping the sex trafficking trade, when in fact his agenda is far broader.
“We deal with sex workers as equals,” Harvey said. “We accept what they do as part of the reality of today’s world, and we do our best to empower them so they can adopt practices that will minimize the risk of HIV transmission for themselves and their partners, and improve their chances of getting access to life-saving health services. To do this work under an ‘anti-prostitution’ policy would be dysfunctional.”
According to reports, many family rights organizations have coined the USAID policy the "global gag rule,” and Brazil recently refused a $40 million AIDS fighting package from USAID because of its anti-adult industry stipulations and the dire consequences it would have on the country’s commercial sex workers.
“U.S. humanitarian assistance abroad has always been conducted by private organizations whose policies are set by their boards of directors, not by USAID,” Harvey said. “Such organizations do not wish to be, and should not be, mouthpieces for government officials whose opinions, in many cases, they do not share. Freedom of speech means that Americans may, without risking punishment, express their opinions freely and not be forced to express the opinions of others.”
DKT's programs are supported by the Bill and Amanda Gates Foundation, among many others, and the Dutch, Irish and Indian governments.