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Jun 29, 2006

AIDS commission chair says B.D.F. HIV testing is wrong

Story PictureThe National AIDS Commission has fired off a press release responding to remarks made on Tuesday’s newscast by B.D.F. Medical Officer Doctor Irvin Gabourel defending the practice of mandatory HIV testing of recruits. According to N.A.C. chair, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, the National AIDS Policy specifies that mandatory testing should not be used as a basis for excluding persons from working–and that includes employment in the B.D.F. Balderamos-Garcia contends that just because someone is HIV positive, it doesn’t mean he or she can’t do the job.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Chair, National AIDS Commission
?This is actually the policy of the land, both the workplace and the National HIV/AIDS policies.?

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
?Has it been passed into law??

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
?It hasn?t been passed into law, but a policy leads to the next steps of making the amendments and adjustments to the legislation. We have to start with the policy framework and if as a country we have a policy of not forcing testing or not having mandatory testing, then we have to call on all partners to abide. And this is why we felt it necessary, not to be quarrelsome or argumentative or anything, but we felt that if there is one policy in the country, we have to promote that policy without exception. Because if the B.D.F. can say, well you know because our soldiers have to be fit and they have to do rigorous exercise we don?t want anybody with HIV within in the force, and so you screen people out. Then the coast guard might come up and say we can do that or some other agency or non-governmental organisation might jump up and say, if the B.D.F. can do it, so can we.”

?I would never be here saying that organisations that require high physical activity don?t have the responsibility to carry out medical tests. I think it would be irresponsible of the National AIDS Commission to ever suggest that. Naturally there has to be proper medical tests for various kinds of employment. I mean everybody, women have to do our pap smear, we have to do our breast exam, and men have to do their P.S.A. test for prostate cancer. Screening does need to take place to maintain people?s good health, but the point we want to make, focussing specifically on HIV and AIDS, is that in and of itself, the HIV status in and of itself should not be the reason to screen somebody out of an employment.?

We are not sure exactly where this controversy is headed but as it stands the B.D.F. continues to screen for HIV as well as a number of other medical conditions that it believes render an applicant unfit for the rigorous requirements of military service.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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