imprisonment of Maksim Popov, an HIV prevention educator and human rights advocate in Uzbekistan


April, 2010
Dear colleagues:
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deep concern over the imprisonment of Maksim Popov, an HIV prevention educator and human rights advocate 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 the 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.”
Mr. Popov is a human rights defender working to combat AIDS in Uzbekistan. We find it unconscionable that the bilateral donors who funded Maksim Popov’s 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 supported and encouraged his work must take 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 popovdefense@.... We must all work together to right this horrible wrong!
The International Committee for the Release of Maksim Popov:
ACT UP/Philadelphia
AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
European Community Advisory Board, Brussels, BE
National Organization of People With AIDS, USA
Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa


Nelson Vergel
powerusa dot org

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