Second Man Accuses State Department of Discrimination Based on His HIV-Positive Status
October 30, 2003
A second HIV-positive man is accusing the State Department of discrimination because the agency did not hire him as a diplomat based on his HIV status, according to a statement released by his attorneys, Reuters reports. The department had approved Kyle Smith for employment pending medical approval, but he was ultimately not hired because he tested HIV-positive, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the not-for-profit group representing Smith, said (Reuters, 10/29). 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. 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 State Department officials, Foreign Service officers who are diagnosed with HIV after being hired are not dismissed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/4). Lambda has filed a complaint with the department's Office of Civil Rights, claiming that the State Department's action violated the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities, Reuters reports (Reuters, 10/29). Jonathan Givner, a Lambda attorney, said, "The State Department is preventing qualified, healthy people from serving their country," adding, "This isn't just bad policy -- it's illegal."
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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.