State Department to Cease HIV Testing of Local Workers at U.S. Posts Abroad
The State Department will end routine HIV testing for foreign personnel and Americans hired locally to work at U.S. postings overseas, the department announced yesterday. The change is intended to bring "overseas hiring and workplace practices in line with global U.S. efforts" against AIDS and to set an "example consistent with [the U.S.] message of non-discrimination to host countries and private industry," according to a State Department statement (State Department release, 8/23). Previously, U.S. ambassadors could choose to require HIV testing of foreign workers and locally hired U.S. citizens, a practice followed by about 20 overseas missions, many in Africa, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The State Department noted that U.S. foreign service officers will still have to undergo HIV screening and that those who test positive will be denied employment. Officials explained that foreign service workers must be able to work anywhere in the world, including places where adequate HIV care is not available.
Focusing on Education
In addition to changes in the testing requirements, the State Department has launched a pilot HIV testing and education program at three U.S. diplomatic posts in Kenya and South Africa, department deputy spokesperson Philip Reeker said. "Those missions, obviously, have been markedly affected by the HIV pandemic, and we're going to expand that program globally during the next fiscal year," he added (Schweid, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/24). The department will also permit overseas missions to negotiate expanded insurance coverage for HIV/AIDS-related expenses "to the greatest extent possible," including for drugs used against opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and for "brief courses" of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (State Department release, 8/23).