NEW YORK (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that the United States cannot force partners in its international fight against AIDS to denounce prostitution as a condition for receiving funding.

The 2-to-1 ruling by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Wednesday upheld a lower court decision that found in favor of three health organizations. The groups had sued the government in 2005. They had noted that some organizations advocate for a reduction in penalties for prostitution to prevent interference with outreach efforts.

The U.S. government had required that organizations seeking government funding publicly announce that they oppose prostitution and sex trafficking.

A judge who dissented urged the Supreme Court to decide the issue.

(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)