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'Solidarity or Moral Crusade? Pepfar and the Anti-Prostitution Pledge'

Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 8 Apr 2010

Christina Doonan

Department of Political Science, Rutgers University

Date Written: March 31, 2010


In 2003 the Bush government announced the "President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief" (PEPFAR), promising $15 billion for programs combating the international AIDS epidemic over five years - a program which was renewed in 2008 for another five years. Despite the apparent magnanimity of this gesture, there is a caveat involved, and one heavily criticized even amongst those who praise PEPFAR: the "anti-prostitution pledge." Linking prostitution and trafficking to the spread of HIV/AIDS, the pledge requires that grantees explicitly condemn sex work and sex trafficking. The same political forces behind the anti-prostitution pledge, namely the Christian right, have entered into alliances with a minority of American feminists in the creation of similar policies, such as the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act" (TVPA). This paper explores the impact that PEPFAR has had on NGO work with respect to HIV/AIDS, the theoretical assumptions that allow certain feminists to enter into alliances over such initiatives with what would otherwise be political rivals, and how religious social teaching motivates political behavior. The answers to these questions provide at least a partial answer to how it is that the policy goal of eradicating a disease has turned into a regime of U.S. global sexual regulation.

Suggested Citation

Doonan, Christina, 'Solidarity or Moral Crusade? Pepfar and the Anti-Prostitution Pledge' (March 31, 2010). Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN:

Christina Doonan (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, Rutgers University ( email )

94 Rockafeller Road
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States

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