September 1, 2004
According to ALP advocate Liesl Gerntholtz, SANDF has a de facto policy that requires HIV testing for new recruits and rejects anyone who tests positive. "We have documents from the South African medical health services of the SANDF that indicate that the protocol that deals with HIV testing says explicitly that if you [test HIV-positive] then you are automatically considered to be medically unfit for employment in the SANDF," Gerntholtz said. ALP claims that rejection based on HIV status is discriminatory and in violation of constitutional guarantees to equity (SAPA/News24.com, 8/30). Gerntholtz also said that the "extent" of a recruits' illnesses and not just their HIV status should be taken into consideration. "It's a blanket exclusion; they don't consider your actual state of health," she said, adding, "There is no ... (blood) count, there is nothing that indicates where you are in terms of disease progression."
Human Right, Human Resources
A potential ALP suit is "controversial" because some military analysts feel that admitting HIV-positive recruits could result in a "physically weakened defense force" that could affect regional stability and the finances of SANDF, according to the South African Press Association. "The SANDF is falling apart as there are not enough financial resources," Lindy Heinecken, deputy director of the South Africa Military Academy at the University of Stellenbosch, said, adding, "The only way to create leadership in the military is for the recruits to progress through the ranks. Otherwise there is anarchy and poor leadership. It is hard then to see that investment in training falling away because of HIV/AIDS." SANDF recently launched a clinical research program, called Project PHIDISA, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense and the HIV/AIDS awareness program MASIBAMBISANE, a project of the Swiss-South African Cooperation Initiative, to curb the spread of the virus among military personnel. HIV-positive project volunteers are provided with antiretroviral drugs at no cost (South African Press Association, 8/30).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.