The U.S. Congress requires that groups that receive funds for fighting HIV and AIDS worldwide have a standard of opposing prostitution. On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear if the 1st Amendment prohibits the U.S. Congress from making it a requirement for groups receiving those funds to have a company policy that opposes prostitution.
This case is the latest that sees how far the U.S. government can go to regulate a company’s free speech as a condition of the company receiving funds.
Congress, since 2008 has authorized $48 billion in spending to combat AIDS, HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Lawmakers have insisted the global effort also include an attack on sex trafficking and prostitution.
The New York-based Alliance for an Open Society International that works throughout Asia has sued Congress to challenge the requirement that involved prostitution. Lawyers for the group said that successful efforts of fighting against HIV and AIDS often times means working cooperatively and organizing efforts with high risk groups, like prostitutes.
Preventing more HIV infections means prostitutes must come forward for testing and subsequent treatment if needed, but a policy that condemns prostitution will likely drive prostitutes underground, said the lawyers.
The provision that was disputed was blocked by a New York federal judge and the Circuit Court of Appeals then ruled during 2011 that the provision was unconstitutional. Its judges ruled that the 1st Amendment in the U.S Constitution forbids compelling a group to espouse the viewpoint of the government on prostitution.