HIV Advocacy on Behalf of Peace Corps Volunteer
Jeremiah Johnson, a Peace Corps volunteer from Denver, Colorado, was sent home from his post in the Ukraine and terminated after he tested positive for HIV. “I joined the Peace Corps because I wanted to learn more about the world and help people,” said Johnson. “It was hard enough to learn that I had contracted HIV, but to then be shipped home and told I was unworthy of finishing my service was incredibly humiliating.”
Johnson, now 25, began his tour as a Peace Corps volunteer in December 2006. He tested negative for HIV prior to beginning his service. For nearly thirteen months, he was the sole volunteer in Rozdilna, Ukraine, where he taught English to middle and high school students. In January 2008, Johnson, who was in Kiev to attend a Russian language program with other volunteers, received a midservice medical examination and opted to take an HIV test. After the results confirmed that he was positive for the disease, he was immediately told that he could no longer work in the country because of a Ukrainian law barring people with HIV from working in the country. He was also told he would not be able to finish his service elsewhere.
The ACLU believes that the Peace Corps must consider on an individualized basis whether an applicant with HIV can volunteer, including making every effort to place those who are able to serve in a country that doesn’t bar people with HIV from working in the country.
Status: VICTORY! On July 30, 2008, the Peace Corps agreed that it will no longer terminate volunteers solely for having HIV.