After years of discrimination, sex workers and NGOs staged the largest protest against the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) ever at this year's International AIDS Conference. Back in 2003, mandated by the Republican-controlled Congress and former President Bush, PEPFAR was heralded by many conservatives and liberals as a big step forward for HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa. What many don't know is that an anti-prostitution clause embedded in the bill severed US funding to one of the highest at-risk populations: sex workers.
PEPFAR mandates that any organization receiving US funds enforce "a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." But, Titania Kumeh notes, "it's not clear whether [PEPFAR's proponents] recognized the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution, spoke to any sex worker-run organizations that combat exploitation, or spoke to groups that seek HIV preventative care and battle sex trafficking," thus harming PEPFAR's own goal.