Several gay men have been fired from the Peace Corps for their positive HIV status. Journalist Azeen Ghorayshi interviewed multiple men, including volunteer Romany Tin, who say that they were terminated from the volunteer program when they disclosed.
Tin told BuzzFeed News he was teaching English in rural Cambodia and was shocked to find out his status, but his immediate mindset was “I want to make sure I can come back.” Tin flew back to Washington DC to receive treatment and within a month was considered undetectable. However the Peace Corps informed him that he was going to be dismissed from his assignment in Cambodia because of his diagnosis.
“They’re such a progressive organization, but their stigma and knowledge of HIV and how to treat it is very backwards,” Tin said.
Another gay man, James Fishon, had a similar experience when he requested to be put on PrEP during his Ukrainian Peace Corps program. Fishon was turned down because he indicated that he had not had sex while while in the country.
A Peace Corps representative told them that the organization assesses a request for PreP based on individual factors developed from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). CDC guidelines, as reported by them, state that PrEP should be considered for “a gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without using a condom or been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months.”
Fishion stated that he met all of this points at the time and was still rejected by the Peace Corps.
Tin is currently residing in his Southern California hometown but told BuzzFeed, “I feel completely health, mentally and physically. They know that. I could have returned to service.”
Because of the history of AIDS, HIV status and transmission are probably some of the least understood aspects of health today. In fact, the CDC finally admitted last year that people with undetectable HIV status can’t transmit the disease, a fact that had been reported by hundreds of other medical organizations.
The Treatment Action Group is currently circulating a petition asking the Peace Corps to end their dismissal of HIV positive volunteers and employees.
Image via Facebook