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Peace Corps Changes Position on HIV-Positive Volunteers

Robert Nakatani,
LGBT Project
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July 30, 2008

There’s been a good development in the case of Jeremiah Johnson, the Peace Corps volunteer whose services were summarily terminated when he tested positive for HIV. Johnson, you might remember, was told he could not finish his service in the Ukraine or anywhere else even though he was asymptomatic.

After pressure from the ACLU, and many current and former volunteers, the Peace Corps administration has had a change of heart, agreeing that it will no longer automatically terminate volunteers with HIV. The Peace Corps has promised to conduct an individual assessment of each volunteer who tests positive to determine the best steps to take to protect the volunteer’s health while also allowing the volunteer to continue his or her service when feasible.

Accountability is the key to the effectiveness of any new policy, so let’s all of us make sure that this is one promise the Peace Corps administration doesn’t forget to keep.

Robert Nakatani is a Senior Strategist with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1968 – 1971.

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