Brazil Declines AIDS Grant, Protects Sex Workers

Gretchen Gallen
RIO DE JANEIRO – Taking a firm stand to protect the country’s thriving sex worker industry, Brazilian officials have refused a $40 million AIDS package from the Bush administration that came with anti-adult industry stipulations.

While in desperate need of financial assistance to help combat the country’s growing AIDS problem, the Brazilian government refused to support the Bush administration’s social agenda that it believed would have had dire consequences on commercial sex workers.

Among the many stipulations that came with the federal funding, HIV/AIDS groups would have been required to issue a written pledge in opposition of sex worker trades. Those groups would also be required to publicly endorse sexual abstinence and denounce drug use.

The offer to Brazil comes on the heels of a Bush policy approved earlier this year that even would have forced groups whose HIV/AIDS work in other countries has nothing to do with commercial sex workers to make a written pledge opposing the sex trade or risk losing federal funding.

Pedro Chequer, director of Brazil's AIDS program and chair of the national commission, referred to the Bush policy as "interference that harms the Brazilian policy regarding diversity, ethical principles and human rights.”

"We can't control [the disease] with principles that are Manichean, theological, fundamentalist and Shiite," Chequer said.

The new policy stems from two 2003 laws, one involving HIV/AIDS funding and another regarding sex trafficking. The laws prohibit funds from going to any group or organization that does not have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking."

The grant program targets 15 countries and is set to run through 2008.

The U.S. grants to Brazil were to include $190,000 for eight groups that advocate for commercial sex workers in Brazil, according to Gabriela Leite, coordinator of the Brazilian Network of Sex Professionals.