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An Open Letter Calling on International Agencies to Support Amnesty for Maksim Popov

May 10, 2010

Nemat Shafik, Director General Country Programmes, DFID
Michel D. Kazatchkine, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria
Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, PSI
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS
Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP
Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF
Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID
Robert B. Zoellick, President, World Bank
Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State
Robert Blake, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
Representative Howard Berman, U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Dear colleagues:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deep concern over the imprisonment of Maksim Popov, an HIV prevention educator, psychologist, and director of a small NGO in Uzbekistan who was falsely convicted in June 2009 of charges including "evasion of taxes and other compulsory payments" and "the involvement of minors in the use of narcotic drugs." He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment as a result of his HIV prevention efforts.

Mr. Popov was the director of the non-governmental organization IZIS, which was funded by USAID, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, the U.N. Development Programme, and the Department for International Development (UK). IZIS conducted activities such as counseling services, provision of sterile injection equipment, training for an AIDS education hotline, and anti-drug education for youth. These services are desperately needed in Uzbekistan, which has the highest HIV prevalence in Central Asia, and where over half of those living with HIV are between the ages of 15 and 30.

The court cited Healthy Lifestyles. Teacher's Guide XXI, a booklet funded by UNDP, UNAIDS and USAID, and imported into Uzbekistan by Population Services International (PSI), stating it was used "with the aim of committing indecent acts against people he knew to be under age 16 ... bearing propaganda promoting homosexuality and prostitution, as well as pornographic images, among youth." HIV and AIDS Today, a brochure written and funded by UNICEF and PSI that included a discussion of same-sex relations and the use of condoms, was also cited. All copies were seized by authorities and burned. The court's verdict stated that HIV and Men who have Sex with Men in Asia and the Pacific -- a publication of UNAIDS -- was "categorically in contradiction with the mentality, the morality and moral foundations of society, religion, customs and traditions of the people of Uzbekistan."

We find it unconscionable that the donors who supported his vision and funded his work have abandoned him, and we are calling for concerted diplomatic efforts to secure his immediate release. The bilateral agencies, international donors, and NGOs that encouraged Mr. Popov's work should take all possible steps to protect him and win his amnesty. The international fight against AIDS cannot succeed if local partners are forsaken when the political winds shift.

We request a report on what steps your organization is taking to get Mr. Popov released as quickly as possible. Please contact us at We must all work together to right this horrible wrong!


The International Committee for the Release of Maksim Popov


Representative Gary Ackerman
Representative Tammy Baldwin
Senator Bob Casey
Representative Joe Crowley
Christopher Bates, Office of AIDS Policy
William Clinton, CHAI
Representative Barney Frank
Senator Karen Gillibrand
Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
Anand Grover, U. N. Special Rapporteur on Health
Senator John Kerry
Representative Nancy Pelosi
Representative Jared Polis
Senator Harry Reid
Senator Charles Schumer

Signers (list in formation):

  1. ACT UP/LA
  2. ACT UP/NY
  3. ACT UP/Philadelphia
  4. ACT UP/Wisconsin
  5. ACRIA -- AIDS Community Research Initiative of America
  6. AEGIS -- AIDS Education Global Information System
  7. Africa Institute for HIV/AIDS Management, South Africa
  8. African Services Committee, NY
  9. AIDS Action Baltimore
  10. AIDS Action Project NW
  11. AIDS Concern, Hong Kong
  12. AIDS Foundation of Chicago
  13. The AIDS Institute, Washington D.C.
  14. AIDS Policy Project
  15. APLA -- AIDS Project Los Angeles
  16. AIDS Treatment News
  17. Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House, IL
  18. Alliance 90 / The Greens Parliamentary Group, Bundestag -- MP Volker Beck
  19. amfAR -- The Foundation for AIDS Research
  20. AREA -- American Run for the End of AIDS
  21. Asia Catalyst
  22. Association Bomoi, Republic of Congo
  23. Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France
  24. ATAC -- AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition
  25. AXIOS Eastern Orthodox Christian AIDS Ministry, NY
  26. Behavioral Services Center, IL
  27. Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, China -- Dr. Wan Yanhai
  28. Black Mens Health Project, GA
  29. CAVDA -- Citizens AIDS Project, IL
  30. Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  31. CHAMP -- Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project
  32. Chicago Recovery Alliance
  33. CitiWide Harm Reduction, NY
  34. CIVICUS -- World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  35. The Cleve Jones Wellness House, NH
  36. Comité IDAHO, Paris
  37. Committee for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience, Uzbekistan -- Bahadir Namazov
  38. Community Information Center, Inc., OR
  39. Confederation of Independent Human Rights, Uzbekistan
  40. Copperbelt Health Education Project, Zambia
  41. CTAC and ICW, North America
  42. ECAB -- European Community Advisory Board
  43. The Expert Working Group, Uzbekistan
  44. FEAT -- Foro español de activistas en tratamientos del VIH, Spain
  45. FIAR -- Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research, NY
  46. Fiery Hearts Club, London -- Mutabar Tadjibaeva
  47. Friends of AIDS Foundation, CA
  48. Front Line, Ireland
  49. Global Justice Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, NY
  50. Global Network of PLWHA/North America
  51. GMHC -- Gay Men's Health Crisis
  52. Harm Reduction Coalition
  53. Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates, NY
  54. Health GAP (Global Access Project)
  55. Health Equities Institute, CA
  56. Health People: Community Preventive Health Institute, NY
  57. HIV/AIDS Services for African Americans in Alaska
  58. HIV-Sweden
  59. Housing Works, NY
  60. Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan
  61. Human Rights in Central Asia -- Nadejda Atayeva
  62. Human Rights Watch
  63. International AIDS Empowerment, TX
  64. International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
  65. International Crisis Group
  66. The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
  67. The Issue of Blood Outreach and Consulting Services, CO
  68. LACBA -- Los Angeles County Bar Association, Barristers AIDS Legal Services Project
  69. L.I.F.E. for Health
  70. Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, NY
  71. McGregor Clinic, FL
  72. Metro Charities, FL
  73. Metropolitan Community Health Services, NC
  74. Midnight Blue Male Sex Workers Support Network, Hong Kong
  75. Mothers Against Death Penalty and Torture, Uzbekistan -- Tamara Chikunova
  76. Movement of Men Against AIDS in Kenya
  77. NAPWA -- National Association of People with AIDS
  78. Nightsweats & T-cells Co., OH
  79. Nutong Xueshe, Hong Kong
  80. NYCAHN -- NYC AIDS Housing Network
  81. PDHRE -- People's Movement for Human Rights Learning
  82. Philadelphia FIGHT
  83. Physicians for Human Rights
  84. Pride in Practice, NY
  85. Program for Wellness Restoration, TX
  86. PsychologicA
  87. Psychologists for Social Responsibility
  88. PWA Coalition Colorado
  89. SANGRAM -- Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha, India
  90. SERES, Portugal
  91. SKA -- Social AIDS Committee, Poland
  92. Topeka AIDS Project
  93. TAC -- Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
  94. TAG -- Treatment Action Group, NY
  95. TeenAIDS -- PeerCorps
  96. Temple of Understanding, NY
  97. Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group
  98. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
  99. Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
  100. Uzbekistan Initiative, London
  101. VAMP -- Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad, India
  102. "Veritas" Youth Human Rights Movement of Uzbekistan
  103. VOCAL -- Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders, NY
  104. Women Together for Change, U.S. Virgin Islands
  105. Women With a Vision, Inc., LA
  106. World Care Council
  107. Zephyr L.T.N.P. Foundation, CA

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This article was provided by The International Committee for the Release of Maksim Popov.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS in Uzbekistan


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