Hate Groups Blaming HIV on 'Sexual Immorality' Included in U.S. Delegation to UN Women's Meeting
On Monday, the U.S. Department of State announced that its official delegation to the United Nations' annual women's rights meeting will include representatives from two prominent anti-LGBTIQ groups that have propagated harmful HIV misinformation and stereotypes.
Executives from the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and the Heritage Foundation will serve as public delegates to the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which takes place in New York City through Friday, March 24. For years, both C-FAM and the Heritage Foundation have downplayed the severity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, erroneously blaming HIV transmission on supposed "sexual immorality" and marital infidelity. The Heritage Foundation, in particular, has claimed in the past that abstaining from sex or remaining faithful to one's partner would curb the HIV/AIDS epidemic and condoms should be "a last resort." The two groups also have a long history of supporting efforts to strip women and LGBTIQ populations of their rights.
Since Monday, human rights activists across the globe have expressed outrage over the State Department's decision to include C-FAM and the Heritage Foundation as public delegates, led by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, to CSW.
"Many Americans have recently asked themselves, what does foreign policy matter to human rights at home? Now, we have our answer," said Jessica Stern, executive director of LGBTIQ rights group OutRight Action International, in a statement. "The same groups advocating against women's rights, immigrants, Muslims, the Affordable Care Act, and LGBTI rights in the U.S. are taking these views to the international stage."
Although both organizations promote dangerous -- and scientifically disproven -- beliefs about HIV, C-FAM is particularly contemptuous in its ideology. In 2012, C-FAM's director of legal studies Stefano Gennarini dismissed a Lancet study connecting homophobia to the HIV epidemic by arguing that homosexuality itself is to blame for high HIV rates among men who have sex with men. (In the same post, he rallied against non-discrimination laws because "there is no data showing the expansion of special rights … has had any effect on [the] HIV infection rate, or overall health.")
C-FAM also published a post from anti-trans author Dale O'Leary last year asserting that HIV/AIDS is "no longer a major concern for the public in the United States" and that AIDS activists have been "using the HIV/AIDS crisis to sell their sexual agenda, which includes social acceptance of homosexuality and prostitution, to the world."
According to Rewire, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled C-FAM an anti-LGBTQ hate group since 2014 because of the organization's "extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric." Also a staunchly anti-choice organization, C-FAM has sought to blame contraception for the spread of HIV in developing countries.
"This is not the kind of organization anybody should be taking advice from, nor given a prominent place like this with these heinous views," Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC's Intelligence Project, told Rewire on Wednesday.