Saturday, May 1, 2010

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

Dear colleague,

I am forwarding the attached letter calling for the release of Maksim Popov, a psychologist and HIV educator in Uzbekistan who was convicted on false charges and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. Please read the letter for more details on his case.

We have been advised by people familiar with the situation in Uzbekistan that the best first step is to publicly call on the organizations that funded his organization to work for his release. So we're asking for additional organizations to sign-on by May 10th, when we will send the letter to the addressees listed.

Dr. Popov is a professional who, like many of us, has dedicated his career to bringing quality care to individuals struggling with HIV/AIDS, substance use problems and other related issues. Please help us right this horrible injustice!


Andrew Tatarsky, PhD
Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates
303 Fifth Avenuem Suite 1403 New York, NY 10016

in support of The International Committee for the Release of Maksim Popov



April, 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 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.”

We find it unconscionable that the bilateral donors who 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 supported and encouraged Mr. Popov’s 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 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
Howard Diamond
Christopher Bates, Office of AIDS Policy
William Clinton, CHAI
Representative Barney Frank
Senator Karen Gillibrand
Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
Paul Hunt, 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):

ACT UP/Philadelphia
ACRIA – AIDS Community Research Initiative of America
African Services Committee
AREA – American Run for the End of AIDS
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, France
ATAC – AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition
AXIOS Eastern Orthodox Christian AIDS ministry
CHAMP – Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project
CitiWide Harm Reduction
CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation – Sonia Zilberman
Comité IDAHO, Paris
Committee for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience, Uzbekistan – Bahadir Namazov
ECAB – European Community Advisory Board
The Expert Working Group, Uzbekistan
Fiery Hearts Club, London – Mutabar Tadjibaeva
Global Network of PLWHA/North America
Harm Reduction Psychotherapy and Training Associates
Harm Reduction Coalition
Health GAP (Global Access Project)
Human Rights in Central Asia – Nadejda Atayeva
International Crisis Group
Mothers Against Death Penalty and Torture, Uzbekistan – Tamara Chikunova
NAPWA – National Association of People with AIDS
NYCAHN – NYC AIDS Housing Network
Program for Wellness Restoration
Topeka AIDS Project
TAC – Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa
TAG – Treatment Action Group
Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
Uzbekistan Initiative, London
"Veritas" Youth Human Rights Movement of Uzbekistan
VOCAL – Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders