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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
South African National Defence Force Won't Take HIV+ Recruits
South African Press Association
October 24, 2003
Business Day (South Africa) (10.24.03) - Friday, October 24,

The Defence Ministry has confirmed that South Africa's National Defence Force (SANDF) will not recruit individuals to the military who are HIV-positive. However, it denied contradicting the cabinet, which stated Wednesday that there is no government policy of excluding people who are HIV- positive.

Although Ministry spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi confirmed that HIV-infected people would not be eligible for military recruitment, he insisted the ministry and the cabinet are speaking with one voice. HIV status has not been isolated as a criterion for recruitment; it is part of an "overall health assessment," said Mkhwanazi, who refused to answer yes or no when asked whether an HIV-positive person would be considered for the military. But when asked whether an HIV-positive person who passed all other aspects of the health assessment would be eligible, he said, "no, in as much as a person with a heart condition or poor eyesight would not be eligible." Earlier this month, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Kekota said there is no point in recruiting persons with HIV: "You can't take ill people... into the army. It's not useful." His statement was widely criticized; some lawyers believe the position to be unconstitutional.

The AIDS Law Project welcomed the cabinet's statement but said it remains "extremely concerned to note that despite this pronouncement, the SANDF has excluded and continues to exclude job applicants with HIV from employment in the SANDF." It cited four examples of individuals it said were refused employment in the SANDF for being HIV-positive. ALP said the SANDF's policies should immediately be brought into line with the cabinet's position.