The Obama administration recently agreed to pump millions of taxpayer dollars into HIV/AIDS treatment specifically for prostitutes, homosexuals, prisoners and opiate addicts in three of the five Muslim-dominated Central Asian Republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Obama, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, seeks to increase the regional provision of HIV prevention, treatment and care services to these particular groups. While one goal is “to reduce the spread of HIV,” the endeavor also will help USAID create “more accountable and inclusive governance institutions that serve the public good.”
According to contracting documents that WND discovered via routine database research, USAID last week awarded a $33.1 million contract to the Washington, D.C.,-based Population Services International, or PSI, a non-profit global health organization.
The administration already is eyeing an expansion of the endeavor, extending it to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan “depending on funding availability.”
USAID acknowledged in the project Statement of Work that the rate of HIV transmission through unprotected sex – particularly among prostitutes (“sex workers”) and homosexuals (“men who have sex with men”) – has surpassed the transmission rate from using hypodermic needles, especially in Kazakhstan.
“In 2011, the proportion of registered HIV cases acquired through sexual transmission (50.7 percent) exceeded, for the first time, the proportion of cases acquired through injection drug use (43.7 percent) in Kazakhstan,” the document says.
Regardless of how HIV is transmitted, the disease in all five nations “remains concentrated” among people who inject drugs, “sex workers, and men who have sex with men,” according to USAID.
PSI will help the agency accomplish its accountability and inclusivity goals by providing “evidence-based” technical support to Central Asian government agencies as well as to NGOs.
Among the various program components, the contractor must prioritize the strengthening of “community-led interventions that address stigma and discrimination” of the targeted groups. These “key populations” have reported that bias is a major barrier to receiving health services.
USAID lamented that “their behaviors are perceived as immoral: e.g., engaging in sex work, injecting drugs, or having same-sex partners.”
As a consequence of those perceptions, potential service recipients face “gender-related stigma and discrimination from society, health providers, and police and are an already marginalized group.”
WND has reported on similar Obama administration endeavors that explicitly rejected “conservative gender norms.”
A USAID program in Central America, for example, criticized several governments for engaging in moral judgments.
The agency two years ago lambasted the governments of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama for failing to adequately carry out gender-equal national health-care policies and inter-governmental agreements.
Despite achieving some HIV-prevention successes, those governments had “fallen short” in the fight against stigma and discrimination suffered by homosexuals, intravenous drug users, prisoners and so-called “sex workers,” USAID said.
The current Central Asian initiative aims to provide sensitivity training to outreach workers, families and law-enforcement agencies to reduce such bias.
Drug transit points
The CIA Fact Book says Kazakhstan is a “significant consumer of opiates,” and likewise engages in “significant illicit cultivation of cannabis” and “limited cultivation of opium poppy and ephedra (for the drug ephedrine).”
Nonetheless there is “limited government eradication of illicit crops,” which has enabled the nation to become a “transit point for Southwest Asian narcotics bound for Russia and the rest of Europe.”
Population-wise, it notes that non-Muslim ethnic minorities have left Kazakhstan “in large numbers,” and a national program had helped repatriate “about a million ethnic Kazakhs back to Kazakhstan.”
“This dramatic demographic shift has also undermined the previous religious diversity and made the country more than 70 percent Muslim,” it says.
In terms of illicit drugs, the CIA similarly describes the 70 percent Muslim-populated Kyrgyzstan. And though the 90 percent Islamic Tajikistan likewise is a “significant consumer of opiates,” unlike neighboring republics it “seizes roughly 80 percent of all drugs captured in Central Asia and stands third worldwide in seizures of opiates (heroin and raw opium).”