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Author Topic: Jeremiah Johnson in th epeace corps/forced to quit due to hiv-positive  (Read 6833 times)

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Offline ubotts

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http://www.denverpost.com/ci_9012829


The Denver Post
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ACLU/Peace Corps at odds over HIV policy

By Anna Haislip
Denver Post Staff Writer

Jeremiah Johnson joined the Peace Corps because he wanted to help people, but was forced to quit after giving nearly a year and a half of service because he is HIV-positive.

Now, Johnson, 25, is working with the American Civil Liberties Union to get the Peace Corps to change its policy on how it treats volunteers with HIV.

"I only want the Peace Corps to change its policy so it is in accordance with federal anti-discriminatory laws," Johnson said. "And if it is in accordance with federal laws, at least clarify what their policy is so another volunteer wont have to experience the stress brought on by this."

Johnson, a 2005 graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, spent more than 16 months teaching English in a Ukrainian secondary school before he was sent home and terminated from the Peace Corps when an HIV test came back positive.

"It was a major shock finding out that I was HIV positive, but I agreed to the HIV test because I felt it was the responsible thing to do since I had been dating," Johnson said. "However, it would have been nicer to have found out in more hospitable conditions."

Johnson, who is openly gay, did not test positive for HIV at the time he enlisted in the Peace Corps. He said he thinks he contracted the virus during his 16-month service.

The termination letter sent to Johnson from the Peace Corps said that he could no longer work in the Ukraine because the country's laws barred anyone with HIV from working in the country. The letter also said Johnson could not continue his service elsewhere because he was given an automatic medical termination by the Peace Corps due to his HIV.

"This has just enabled us to see how they treat people with HIV," said Paul Cates, the director of public education for the AIDS Project at the ACLU.

On Monday, the ACLU sent a four-page letter to the Peace Corps on behalf of Johnson, demanding that the they stop barring people with HIV from serving as volunteers.

A Peace Corps official declined to comment on the incident until they are able to review the ACLU's letter.

In a written statement they said they cannot discuss medical or other privacy protected matters concerning volunteers.

Cates and the ACLU think it is illegal under the Rehabilitation Act for the Peace Corps to discriminate against Johnson because he has HIV. The letter cites a recent federal appeals court decision finding that it is illegal for the Foreign Service to bar people with HIV from serving.

In its defense, Foreign Service, which also sends workers around the globe, had argued that it was justified in barring people with HIV from service in order to protect the health of people with HIV who would be stationed in areas with limited access to medical treatment.

Johnson, on the other hand, said he doesn't understand why he couldn't finish out the last 10 months of his service when he is completely a-symptomatic.

"I personally don't require medical treatment, and without assessing that how can they kick me out?" Johnson asked. "The odds that in such an early stage of my HIV would reach to untreatable levels is low. It's just that the Peace Corps concerns were never expressed specifically."


Anna Haislip: 303-954-1638, or ahaislip@denverpost.com
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Offline bear60

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I saw this on my LGBRPCV list-serve and there have been a number of comments by members on the news about the HIV positive PC volunteer being sent home.
One commentator went so far as to post a (partial) list of countries and their restrictions on HIV.  The gist of his comment was this: if a volunteer is in danger of bodily harm and discrimination because of  his HIV status then he should not be allowed to stay in his country. 
Here is his list showing restrictions:
This is a random list of some of the countries PC works in.  I started with the Asia region, and but ran out of time so not a complete global list.
Cambodia
Though a foreigner can be expelled if he/she poses a threat to national security, health is not mentioned as grounds for expulsion.
China
Foreign nationals applying for residence or intending to stay more than six months must have an HIV test certificate approved by a Chinese Embassy or consulate, or undergo a test in China within 20 days of arrival. It is reported that random testing at the point of entry is now unofficial Chinese policy. Entry is denied and deportation is likely for foreigners who are found to be HIV–positive. Testing is not required for entry or residency in Hong Kong.
Thailand
According to the law, people with communicable diseases are not allowed to enter Thailand. However, no doctor’s certificate is required at the border, so that an illness (as long as is not known) does not affect the granting of a visa. In some cases, a doctor’s certificate including an HIV test has to be presented when applying for a visa extension (especially when applying for a long-term visa or a residence permit).
Mongolia
A test result is requested on entry. However, this law is apparently not applied. Foreign students must have an HIV test on arrival, repeated several months later. Foreigners staying longer than 30 days may also be required to undergo testing, though this is not an official law and is only selectively applied.
Dominican Republic
A negative HIV test certificate is required for a work permit or application for permanent residency.
Bolivia
No regulations for short tourism or business visits – but compulsory Yellow Fever Vaccine for all visitors. This live vaccine is not recommended for those with compromised immunity.
A medical with blood test is required for short– or long–term residency applications.
Anyone staying more than 90 days and applicants for work permits will be required to provide evidence of their HIV status.
Ecuador
Those applying for a long-term residency are normally requested to test for HIV.
Mexico
Foreigners with a known HIV infection are not subject to specific entry or residence regulations. The deportation of an HIV-positive person is only possible in the case of a very severe offence.
Philippines
No restrictions for short-term tourist stays lasting up to six months. Applicants for a permanent visa must undergo medical examination including an HIV test. This also applies to visitors who wish to extend an existing visa.
Paraguay
Anyone applying for permanent residency in Paraguay is required to undergo HIV testing at the regional medical laboratory. No residence permit is granted if the test result is positive.
Peru
No specific entry restrictions. Those wishing to obtain a Peruvian marriage certificate are required to take an HIV test.
Jamaica
No restrictions for people with HIV.
Turkmenistan
No restrictions for short-term tourist stays. A positive test result may, however, lead to deportation.
Kyrgyzstan
All foreigners excluding diplomats staying more than one month are required to provide evidence of their HIV status.
Kazakhstan
A negative test result has to be provided when applying for a work or residence permit. It is recommended to carry a certified copy of a test result certificate in Russian language. This way it can be avoided to undergo an HIV test in Kazakhstan, a procedure that, in some cases, has to be repeated every three months.
Micronesia
Anyone staying over 90 days and anyone holding a work permit is required to undergo an HIV test.
Georgia
All foreigners staying longer than one month are required to provide evidence of their HIV status, provided that the test certification was issued at least 30 days before arrival.
Armenia
Entry prohibited for HIV-positive people. Also, people who fall ill during their stay in the country may be deported, although the actual legislation on this matter is still being prepared.
Albania
No restrictions.
Jordan
For a stay of more than 30 days, a medical examination by a Health Ministry laboratory is obligatory. In the case of positive test result, the applicant has to leave the country at very short notice.
Mozambique
No restrictions.
Morocco
No restrictions.
Moldavia
Foreign nationals who are HIV positive are not allowed to enter Moldavia. A medical certificate is required on entry, although tourists are exempt. In addition, foreign tourists need to pass a health exam conducted by the Moldavian Health Authorities. Such a certificate is also necessary if a foreign national wishes to get married in Moldavia. HIV testing is required of anybody wishing to stay longer than three months.
Mali
There are no entry restrictions for HIV-positive persons. However, yellow fever vaccination is required. This is not recommended in immune compromised individuals.
Madagascar
No restrictions.

Malawi
No entry restrictions. A health certificate is not required for longer stays and applications for residen
« Last Edit: April 26, 2008, 11:05:36 AM by bear60 »
Poz Bear Type in Philadelphia

Offline bear60

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  • Posts: 4,104
MORE in the Peace Corps and HIV::::::

The Christian Science Monitor on Friday examined how the Peace Corps is attempting to attract skilled volunteers as it begins to address "more complex issues," such as HIV/AIDS, and "professionalize" the agency.

Peter Parr, the agency's country director in Ethiopia, last year approached Ethiopian officials about the possibility of increasing Peace Corps volunteers' work on the HIV epidemic in the country. However, the officials said that such an approach would require more skilled volunteers rather than recent college graduates with little work experience.

In Ethiopia, the Peace Corps operates with funding from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, making volunteers' work on the disease an "increasingly prominent part of its portfolio," the Monitor reports. However many volunteers lack the "commitment and capacity" to handle such work, Meskele Lera, deputy director of the Ethiopian agency that oversees HIV/AIDS activities, said.

The Peace Corps is increasing its efforts to attract retirees with professional experience by reducing the necessary medical screenings and by recruiting volunteers from groups such as AARP and the retired teachers' association. According to Peace Corps spokesperson Joellen Duckett, applications from people older than age 50 have increased by 60% since September 2007, when the agency began actively recruiting retirees.

Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association for returned volunteers, is advocating for more "drastic" reforms to the agency by reducing volunteers' 27-month service commitment. Quigley, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, said he and many other former volunteers would like to volunteer again but are unable to take such a long absence from work.

Quigley has suggested reforms that would allow older volunteers to travel to focus countries intermittently over several years and provide guidance to local partners via e-mail and phone. There is growing support among lawmakers for significant reforms to allow such changes by the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary in 2011, Quigley said.

According to the Monitor, efforts to reform the Peace Corps are coming after similar Japanese and British agencies reformed their programs to make "measurable contributions" to developing countries. The Japanese program about 10 years ago was incorporated into an international aid agency through which volunteers and professionals work together in focus countries. The British Volunteer Service Overseas program considers applicants based on their work experience and professional credentials. The average age of VSO volunteers is 41, compared with 26 for Peace Corps volunteers, the Monitor reports.

"You can't replace [work] experience," Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter said, adding that retirees have the "same kind of passion" as recent college graduates but "have 30 years of experience to bring along with it." Quigley added that it is "absolutely" a "historic moment" for the agency (Benequista, Christian Science Monitor, 4/25).


Poz Bear Type in Philadelphia

Offline bear60

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  • Posts: 4,104
This topic has generated much interest on the LGBTRPCV list serve....
this weeks latest:

[This is a great letter by novelist Tony D'Souza (Cote d'Ivoire 2000–02; Madagascar 2002–03) Tony is the author of Whiteman and The Konkans, and a 2008 Guggenheim fellow. This letter was sent to the Washington Post yesterday.]
 
I applaud columnist Stephen Barr and the Washington Post for championing the cause of Peace Corps Volunteer Jeremiah Johnson, who was removed from his post in the Ukraine after testing positive for HIV. There are many ugly facets to this case, but the most disturbing is how this action undermines one of the Peace Corps' most important missions: that of furthering HIV/AIDS awareness and promoting the safety and civil rights of HIV positive people in the developing world.


 
From 2000 to 2002 I served as an Peace Corps Volunteer in a small Muslim village in Ivory Coast. During my two and a half years there I talked to hundreds of West Africans about HIV/AIDS, rolled countless condoms over a Peace Corps issued wooden penis in public demonstrations. I worked in Worodougou, Dioula, and West African French, saying all the dirty words in those languages, talking endlessly about the most taboo subject for them, for us, for anyone in the world: sex. It was embarrassing all around, and the demonstrations often led to a lot of blushing and laughter. But it was also deadly serious work. At that time, one in four adult Ivoirians was infected with HIV.


I'm happy to report that I met almost no one who had not previously heard about HIV/AIDS; the Ivorian government had literally papered the whole country with billboards warning about the disease. But at the same time, the availability of condoms was nearly nil, many of the young men treated the situation as a dismissible CIA-generated plot. And as to the efficacy of the billboards I'll recount here a brief list of the questions I was regularly asked: "Can condoms be washed and reused?" "Can I cure myself by sleeping with a virgin?" "Do Americans want to keep black Africans from having children?" "Don't only bad people get HIV?"


 
Peace Corps service requires a two year commitment. Knowing this, in training before we were sent to our villages, many of us joked about what we would do when confronted with the question of sex in the field. We were mostly young, and almost everyone was single: we would abstain, we told each other, we would use two condoms, we would only sleep with other Americans. "Who is the prettiest person in our training group?" we asked each other. The familiar refrain became, "Whoever is posted closest to me."


 
Reality did not work that way. The locals treated us like rockstars; the locals were beautiful. Certainly economics played a huge roll in it, but that question isn't germane: two years is two years, and we lived there for all of it. Most of us had sex with locals, some of us came home with HIV.


 
In training and in the field, we all met local people who lived openly with the disease. We worked with them, brought them into the villages to show those close-minded rural folk that HIV can strike anyone, good or bad, that the disease is something we must all live with.


 
America had Ryan White to help us understand, and I was privileged to work alongside the Ryan Whites of West Africa. How brave those people were. The stigma attached to the disease was in full force in Ivory Coast at that time, prejudice the order of the day. And yet there they were, a housewife, a teacher, a mechanic, all of them willing to stand in front of the masses and proclaim their HIV positive status.


We learned this lesson in America twenty years ago. That Jeremiah Johnson should be brought home because of HIV is an embarrassing step backward for an organization that is one of the few positive things America has going for it in the world. How could I have spent those years of my life telling every African I met that HIV is something we must not fear, when the very organization supporting my work undercuts the mission in this way?


 
In retrospect, I have often been conflicted about the "good" I did in West Africa. Yes, I did tell many people how to protect themselves from HIV, but I also did it in a place that did not really allow them this opportunity. What condoms were available were prohibitively expensive, and often a young man or woman would say to me, "I wasn't afraid until I heard you speak. But now I know that I will die. How can I protect myself when there are no condoms? I will never get an HIV test because if I find out I am positive, then I will lose the will to live and I will die right away. Too many children depend on me. So I will never get a test."


 
To pull Jeremiah Johnson from his post is to promote the idea that being HIV positive is bad.  That everyone with HIV is somehow separate from the whole, worthy of discrimination, that being HIV positive is something to hide. Does the Peace Corps really want to reinforce abroad what we've worked so hard to overcome at home?


A message we can all believe in would be to reinstate Jeremiah Johnson, let him serve as an HIV positive Volunteer, to tell the world that HIV is so unworthy of stigma in American eyes that someone with HIV can represent us abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer. What message would be more potent? Unless, of course, it's not true.

Poz Bear Type in Philadelphia

 


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