HIV-Positive Man Sues State Department Alleging Foreign Service Medical Requirements Illegally Discriminate
September 4, 2003
An HIV-positive man whose application for the Foreign Service was rejected on medical grounds yesterday filed a lawsuit against the State Department, saying that the department's criteria for employment are discriminatory and out-of-date, Reuters/Washington Post reports (Reuters/Washington Post, 9/4). Lorenzo Taylor of Arlington, Va., in November 2001 was conditionally accepted as a foreign service officer after he passed the required oral and written exams. However, the State Department declined to employ Taylor, saying that his HIV-positive status would prevent him from being stationed in certain posts (Marquis, New York Times, 9/4). The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the federal lawsuit on Taylor's behalf, said that the State Department violated the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities (Reuters/Washington Post, 9/4). The State Department in 2001 stopped routine HIV testing for foreign personnel and U.S. personnel hired locally to work at U.S. posts in other countries. 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. However, the department did not suspend routine testing of applicants for the Foreign Service (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/24/2001). The HIV testing is part of a requirement that newly hired employees in the Foreign Service have "worldwide availability," meaning that they cannot have medical problems that would prohibit them from being stationed anywhere in the world, including areas that may have limited health care infrastructures, according to the New York Times. According to State Department officials, Foreign Service officers who are diagnosed with HIV after being hired are not dismissed (New York Times, 9/4).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.