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Enabling sex work or effective HIV prevention?

From the (4 Mar 2006)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Paula Duran is an outreach worker with a style of her own. That style — heavy on fishnet, tattoos and suggestive poses — is at the heart of an ideological disagreement between Brazil and the United States over the best way to fight AIDS.

Duran, 35, is a prostitute in Villa Mimosa, a red-light district in this seaside city where an estimated 3,500 sex workers lounge in the doorways and lean out the windows of scarred, decaying buildings.

Each time she snags a customer, she fishes in her purse for a government-supplied condom. Often she repeats information on disease transmission that she learned at a state-funded workshop for prostitutes around the corner…

But the U.S. government strongly disapproves of such unorthodox methods. Two weeks ago, Brazil received a letter from USAID declaring the country ineligible for a renewal of a $48 million AIDS prevention grant. The United States requires all countries receiving AIDS funding help to formally state that prostitution is dehumanizing and degrading, and Brazil last year — alone among AIDS aid recipients — was unwilling to do that.

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