HIV/AIDS Should Not Be ‘Barrier’ to Peace Corps Service, Editorial Says
HIV/AIDS should not be a "barrier" to serving in the Peace Corps, a Washington Post editorial says in response to a recent article by Post columnist Stephen Barr about the organization's policy regarding HIV-positive volunteers (Washington Post, 5/6).
According to Barr, Jeremiah Johnson, a former volunteer in Ukraine, recently was discharged by the agency after he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Johnson discovered that he is HIV-positive in January during a scheduled medical exam that took place in Ukraine's capital of Kiev. Johnson said that a few days after the test results came back positive, the Peace Corps' Ukraine country director told him to return to Washington, D.C., because Ukrainian law prevents HIV-positive people from working in the country.
After returning to the district, Johnson in February had another medical exam and was given a "medical separation" from the Peace Corps, according to Barr. The agency on the separation notice said that it had determined the "resolution of [Johnson's] condition(s) will take longer than the maximum-allowable 45 days" and that Johnson "would be medically unable to perform [his] volunteer assignment."
According to Johnson, the Peace Corps' decision to end his assignment violates federal anti-discrimination laws. He was referred to the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently wrote to the agency's director, Ronald Tschetter. Peace Corps Press Director Amanda Beck said that Tschetter plans to respond to ACLU (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/29).
Although Beck has said that the Peace Corps does not have a policy of "automatically excluding people with HIV," the "fact remains" that Johnson was "booted from the Peace Corps because of his diagnosis," the editorial says. In addition, while Ukraine's policies regarding HIV-positive workers are "misguided and discriminatory, they cannot excuse the U.S. government," according to the Post. HIV "should not be a barrier to public service," the editorial says, adding, "Making it so, as in Mr. Johnson's case, is a waste of talent and goodwill." The editorial concludes that with all of the Peace Corps' "work in dealing with HIV/AIDS around the world, the agency should know that" (Washington Post, 5/6).