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 Campaign 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 to Protect Journalists
  38. Committee for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience, Uzbekistan – Bahadir Namazov
  39. Community Information Center, Inc., OR
  40. Confederation of Independent Human Rights, Uzbekistan
  41. Copperbelt Health Education Project, Zambia
  42. CTAC and ICW, North America
  43. Danish Drug Users Union / BrugerForeningen
  44. Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe e.V., Germany
  45. ECAB – European Community Advisory Board
  46. ENCOD – European Coalition For Just And Effective Drug Policies
  47. The Expert Working Group, Uzbekistan
  48. Ezgulik, Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan
  49. FEAT – Foro español de activistas en tratamientos del VIH, Spain
  50. FIAR – Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research, NY
  51. Fiery Hearts Club, London – Mutabar Tadjibaeva
  52. Friends of AIDS Foundation, CA
  53. Front Line, Ireland
  54. GenderMediaCaucasus Journalist Association, Tbilisi, Georgia
  55. Global Justice Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, NY
  56. Global Network of PLWHA/North America
  57. GMHC – Gay Men’s Health Crisis
  58. Harm Reduction Coalition
  59. Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates, NY
  60. Health GAP (Global Access Project)
  61. Health Equities Institute, CA
  62. Health People: Community Preventive Health Institute, NY
  63. HEART – Hepatitis and AIDS Research Trust
  64. HIV/AIDS Services for African Americans in Alaska
  65. HIV-Sweden
  66. Housing Works, NY
  67. Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan
  68. Human Rights in Central Asia – Nadejda Atayeva
  69. Human Rights Watch
  70. The Initiative Group of Uzbekistani Independent  Human Rights Defenders
  71. International AIDS Empowerment, TX
  72. International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
  73. International Crisis Group
  74. International Service for Human Rights
  75. The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
  76. The Issue of Blood Outreach and Consulting Services, CO
  77. LACBA – Los Angeles County Bar Association, Barristers AIDS Legal Services Project
  78. LHIVE – Organization of People Living with HIV/AIDS, Switzerland
  79. L.I.F.E. for Health
  80. Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, NY
  81. McGregor Clinic, FL
  82. Metro Charities, FL
  83. Metropolitan Community Health Services, NC
  84. Midnight Blue Male Sex Workers Support Network, Hong Kong
  85. Mothers Against Death Penalty and Torture, Uzbekistan – Tamara Chikunova
  86. Movement of Men Against AIDS in Kenya
  87. MSMGF – The Global Forum on MSM & HIV
  88. NAPWA – National Association of People with AIDS
  89. Nightsweats & T-cells Co., OH
  90. Nutong Xueshe, Hong Kong
  91. NYCAHN – NYC AIDS Housing Network
  92. Open Society Institute
  93. PDHRE – People's Movement for Human Rights Learning
  94. Philadelphia FIGHT
  95. Physicians for Human Rights
  96. Pride in Practice, NY
  97. Program for Wellness Restoration, TX
  98. PsychologicA
  99. Psychologists for Social Responsibility
  100. PWA Coalition Colorado
  101. Regional Public Foundation Novoye Vremya, Ekaterinburg, Russia
  102. SANGRAM – Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha, India
  103. SERES, Portugal
  104. SKA – Social AIDS Committee, Poland
  105. Topeka AIDS Project
  106. TAC – Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
  107. TAG – Treatment Action Group, NY
  108. TeenAIDS – PeerCorps
  109. Temple of Understanding, NY
  110. Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group
  111. U.K. Harm Reduction Alliance
  112. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
  113. Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
  114. Uzbekistan Initiative, London
  115. VAMP – Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad, India
  116. "Veritas" Youth Human Rights Movement of Uzbekistan
  117. VOCAL – Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders, NY
  118. Women Together for Change, U.S. Virgin Islands
  119. Women With a Vision, Inc., LA
  120. World Care Council
  121. Youth Human Rights Group – Karelia, Russia
  122. Zephyr L.T.N.P. Foundation, CA