Soldier Living with HIV Deployed as Sudan Peacekeeper
The controversy over whether HIV positive individuals should be deployed as peacekeepers took a new turn this week when Sergeant Sipho Mthethwa of the South African National Defence Force was deployed as a peacekeeper to Sudan. Originally, the SANDF had refused to deploy Sgt. Mthethwa, who is a musician, because he was openly living with HIV. Assisted by the AIDS Law Project of South Africa, Sgt. Mthethwa challenged his exclusion in court and won, on the basis that this amounted to discrimination in employment and hence was contrary to the South African constitution.
The medical criteria for deployment on UN peacekeeping missions include ‘fitness to serve’, and the UN leaves it to the discretion of the troop contributing country to determine the medical fitness of any individual soldier. In many countries, living with HIV is not considered a medical condition that should debar a soldier from active service, provided the required medical facilities are available on mission.