I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

History of HIV in Peace Corps

Peace Corps initiated HIV screening in 1987. Volunteers have been screened both prior to, and at the end of, service since 1989. Since 1989, 38 Volunteers have tested positive for HIV during service. The Health of the Volunteer 2008 Report
Prior to 2008, it seems that volunteers testing HIV positive were automatically medically separated from the Peace Corps.

In 2008, HIV positive volunteer Jeremiah Johnson (Ukraine) joined with ACLU to legally challenge the Peace Corps HIV Policy.
Poz.com- Jeremiah Johnson's Story
ACLU- Jeremiah Johnson Case
Edge- ACLU Challenge to Peace Corps

Another HIV positive volunteer, Rebeccah Coulbourn (Burkina Faso), came forward with her story and supported Jeremiah and the ACLU's challenge to Peace Corps.
UN Plus- Rebeccah Coulbourn

Under pressure from ACLU, Peace Corps seems to clarify their HIV Policy in mid 2008. Peace Corps states that their policy is to review each volunteer's case on an individual basis.
Peace Corps Response to ACLU

Later in 2008, Elizabeth Tunkle (Zambia & Lesotho) seems to be the first HIV positive volunteer to avoid medical separation and return to complete her service with the Peace Corps.
Speaking My Truth: HIV Positive and Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Due to confidentiality reasons, it is difficult to discern whether other HIV positive volunteers have since returned to service, although I found this one article that mentions one additional HIV positive volunteer, Craig, returning to and completing his service.
Volunteer Positive- Craig

In September 2011, I tested positive for HIV and was medically evacuated back to the United States. I was medically separated from the Peace Corps in October 2011, after the maximum allowable 45 days of Medevac Status. Peace Corps has given me the option to apply for reinstatement within one year, if I can prove to be in stable medical condition for a certain period of time and achieve certain lab requirements.

1 comment:

  1. Hey. It been a long time...I hope you are well. I feel a little less alone knowing you are out there. I checked out that article about Craig. It said he was a Peace Corps alumn. Unless I read it wrong, he was infected after he served and returned to his service country as a lay man. You continue to inspire me. Love, Elizabeth