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International News

South Africa: Call for Peacekeeping Forces to Be HIV-Free

December 12, 2007

Speaking at a two-day conference on HIV/AIDS in the military, defense analyst Lindy Heinecken of Stellenbosch University said South Africa should not deploy HIV-positive soldiers on peacekeeping assignments until the troops had established a record of good behavior on such missions.

Heinecken said deploying HIV-positive soldiers would pose a risk to their health, their colleagues' health, and civilian populations. She also said greater punitive sanctions should be imposed on solders who become infected.

South African and other foreign troops have been implicated in sexual misconduct when deployed in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Peacekeeping is one of the key priorities of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), which has a foreign deployment of more than 3,000 soldiers, mainly in Africa.

UN recommendations for deployment require solders be medically fit and HIV-free. SANDF does not currently accept new recruits who are HIV-positive, and it largely excludes HIV-positive soldiers from foreign missions.

Heinecken's comments were made in the context of a pending court challenge. The South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) is seeking to overturn SANDF's HIV policy on the grounds that it represents unfair discrimination in recruitment, deployment, and promotion. The case will be heard in the Pretoria High Court in May 2008.

Len le Roux, head of the Institute for Security Studies' defense sector program, said the military recognized HIV as a "strategic issue" in 1998 and rolled out antiretrovirals before the national distribution program was launched in 2003. At last report, the rate of HIV infection in SANDF was about 23 percent.

Back to other news for December 2007

Adapted from:
Business Day (South Africa)
12.05.2007; Wilson Johwa

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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