The U.S. government will spend nearly half a million dollars sending federal employees to an AIDS conference in Mexico City---an event featuring a “Sex Workers Mini Film Festival” and workshops led by a pro-prostitution advocacy group.
116 government workers from various federal agencies will attend the XVII AID Conference in Mexico City, Mexico at a cost of $470,000 to U.S. taxpayers, according to a report released by the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security minority staff.
78 staff from the Department of Health and Human Services will consume $360,000 on transportation, lodging, registration and booth set-up fees.
Other agencies sending staff members to the conference include: USAID (12 employees for $69,055), the Office of Global AIDS Coordinator (2 employees for $7,342), the Peace Corps (2 employees for $8,198), U.S. Census Bureau (4 employees for $10,500) and the Department of Defense (three employees for $7,500).
Ranking committee member Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) argues that money would be more well-spent on preventing newborns from contracting HIV. In a statement released by his office he said: “This is a simple question of priorities when it comes to addressing HIV/AIDS—talk or treatment? Conference or care? While the waiting list for federal employees to attend the AIDS conference may now exceed the waiting list for patients seeking AIDS drugs, most taxpayers would probably agree that providing life saving treatment to 35 of their fellow Americans is a better expenditure of funds than paying to send 114 government employees on a trip to Mexico. No one will die from not being able to attend a conference, but the same is not true for those who are living with HIV/AIDS and can not access treatment.”
Over 22,000 people are expected to attend the conference, which runs August 3-5. One of the workshops featured at the conference Monday was hosted by the pro-prostitution group Empower Foundation that applauds sex workers who “are major part of the Thai economy bringing in lots of tourist dollars,” according to their website. Empower’s workshop at the conference was entitled “Educational Tool 7 Hours 55 Minutes Sex Workers Empower Thailand.”
The “Sex Workers Min Film Festival” scheduled Tuesday will include a film viewing that examines the “anti-prostitution pledge” required by the U.S. government for foreign countries to receive AIDS funding.