The BBC has become the latest in a string of international organizations and governments opposing the Bush Administration's restrictive international HIV/AIDS-prevention policies. The BBC World Service Trust had signed a contract in 2005 to develop a three- year media campaign in Tanzania focusing on HIV/AIDS. When BBC officials were informed by the U.S. government that they would have to sign a pledge stating that their organization “explicitly opposed prostitution,” they refused and the project was cancelled six months later.
The anti-prostitution pledge was first enacted as part of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 which laid out the structure for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).1 PEPFAR has become the U.S. government's framework for addressing the global AIDS pandemic and includes funding for 15 focus countries in Africa and the Caribbean as well as Vietnam . The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers the PEPFAR funds, has yet to release appropriate guidance around the pledge and many grantees have been left wondering exactly what activities might be construed by the U.S. government as breaking the promisee to “oppose prostitution.”
Partners in Tanzania , one of the focus countries, received over $84 million in Fiscal Year 2005 under PEPFAR.2 All of this funding has been subject to the U.S. government's policies around prostitution.
The $4 million grant from USAID was slated to support a partnership with Tanzanian broadcasters to produce radio dramas, phone-ins, and public service advertisements to help prevent the spread of HIV. The BBC was not anticipating working directly with sex workers, but said materials portraying sex workers would have been non-judgmental.3
The BBC spokesperson, commenting on negotiations with USAID around the policies, said that “the more we discussed this, despite efforts on both sides, the clearer it became that there was no common ground.”4
The BBC is not the first to reject the Bush Administration's global HIV-prevention strategy. In fact, the government of Brazil became the first nation ever to reject U.S. funding over ideological differences when it refused the remaining $40 million in a 5-year grant from the U.S. government in protest of PEPFAR's ideologically motivated components. Additionally, two U.S.-based organizations that provide international HIV/AIDS relief work, DTK International and the Open Society Institute, filed law suits challenging USAID on the constitutionality of the anti-prostitution pledge.
- “Fiscal Year 2005 Tanzania Partners,” U.S. Department of State, 24 January 2006, accessed 14 February 2006, <http://www.state.gov/s/gac/partners/60164.htm>.
- “BBC Backs Off Bush in Africa,” The Guardian, 23 January 2006, accessed 14 February 2006, <http://media.guardian.co.uk/mediaguardian/story/0,,1692457,00.html>.