Letter Repudiating the Ministry of Health’s Censorship of the Campaign about Prostitution and HIV/AIDS
Rio de Janeiro, June 17, 2013
The Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association – ABIA, an organization founded by the sociologist, Herbert de Souza (Betinho), in 1987, has been accompanying and publicly taking a stand since June 4th when the Ministry of Health announced its censorship of the campaign about prostitution and HIV/AIDS launched on International Prostitutes Day (June 2nd). The censorship, now widely disseminated and criticized, violated the rights of the women featured in the campaign, prostitutes in general, and, in our understanding, of all Brazilian society in a direct and explicit way.
ABIA has developed a series of research projects and interventions with different population groups throughout its 25 years confronting the AIDS epidemic in Brazil. In these studies, we have observed that prejudice, discrimination and violence have serious implications in restricting people’s individual and collective ability to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS; in particular people who due to their work, gender identity or sexual orientation are excluded from spaces that should guarantee them access to health, education, and workers rights among others.
By giving in to moral and conservative pressure, the Ministry of Health is ignoring innumerous scientific studies conducted by national and international researchers in the field and repeating a frequently observed position by censoring the relationship between sexual rights and confronting the AIDS epidemic (click here to see more). Their actions also directly contribute to increasing negative factors that marginalize determinate population groups. Thus, these groups are placed in categories that distinguish them from people considered as human (and therefore subjects with human rights), to the extent that only part of their existence is recognized, and their choices are negated. This fragmentation of the subject, however, is not consistent with the integral health care stipulated in the public health guidelines and implementation of the Unified Health System (SUS) in Brazil.
In a country with high rates of social inequality, as is the case of Brazil, vulnerabilities and structural violence overlap and multiply. This generates a challenging context, in which a combination of an affirmation of rights and public health policies has become more and more important, and requires political action and social participation.
In the recent event on International Prostitutes Day, basic rights regarding the participation of civil society in the formulation of prevention strategies were violated. In addition, it opened up space for groups that act against the prostitutes’ profession to feel comfortable expressing hateful and violent acts.
In this context, an explicit violation of the human right to health is evident, a right that was achieved and legitimated by the Brazilian State. In this sense, civil society is demanding a position on behalf of governmental instances that defend human rights in general, and, in particular, of women. A petition directed at the Minister-Director of the Secretariat for Human Rights and the Minister of the Secretariat for Women’s Policies in the President’s Office requests that both take institutional positions, and support the airing of the campaign as an expression of fundamental rights.
ABIA, similar to the group of civil society organizations, NGOs, health professionals, and universities that make up the AIDS social movement in Brazil, express their indignation and worry with regards to the conservative direction of HIV and AIDS policies supported by the current government. The narrow and stigmatizing tendency assumed by the Ministry of Health in 2013 reflects a regression that has been observed over the past several years. International activists and researchers look at Brazil now not in search of inspiration and learning, but appalled and worried with the government’s path of subjugation to religious, and, above all, personal interests.