On February 15th, the U.S. State Department lifted a ban preventing HIV-positive individuals from becoming Foreign Service officers. Previously, the State Department had automatically excluded HIV-positive applicants from Foreign Service. However, it permitted current employees who seroconvert (those who became infected with the virus after being hired) to remain employed. This new rule comes at a time when a five-year long lawsuit against the State Department’s blanket ban was set for trial.1
The lawsuit was brought by Lorenzo Taylor after he was denied employment by the State Department because he has HIV. Taylor and representation, Lambda Legal, contended the ban violated the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. They further argued that advances in antiretroviral medication have substantially improved the health of HIV-positive individuals rendering the current U.S. policy archaic.
The new regulations no longer automatically exclude HIV-positive candidates from the Foreign Service but, instead, assess the person’s health on a case-by-case basis. It is unclear, however, whether the repeal in the State Department will affect the number of HIV-positive candidates applying for the Foreign Service.
“The repeal of the ban on HIV-positive Americans to serve as our Foreign Service officers is an important step toward moving away from the government’s archaic policies against people living with HIV/AIDS,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “Although the repeal is long overdue, we applaud the new regulations in the U.S. State Department, and congratulate Lorenzo Taylor and Lambda Legal on this significant victory.”
- “Lambda Legal: Taylor v. Rice,” Lambda Legal, (3 March 2003), accessed 7 March 2008,? <http://www.lambdalegal.org/our-work/in-court/cases/taylor-v-rice.html>