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DoD Delays Discharge of HIV-Positive Personnel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 1996 – President Clinton directed DoD to delay enforcing a Defense Authorization Act provision requiring discharge of HIVpositive service members.

A Clinton memorandum said the provision is clearly discriminatory, unwarranted and punitive. He also said the government will not defend the provision if individuals challenge it in court.

The provision, sponsored by California Rep. Robert K. Dornan, calls for DoD to discharge HIVpositive service members within six months of Feb. 10, when Clinton signed the authorization act. It affects more than 1,000 service members and would deny them benefits they would normally receive if allowed to work until medically disabled. DoD will not begin processing discharges for those affected until August.

"We will, because we are opposed to this law, wait as long as possible before beginning discharge proceedings involving any HIVpositive personnel," said DoD spokesman Kenneth Bacon. The administration supports legislation introduced in Congress to repeal the provision and hopes for speedy passage, he said.

In a joint statement, Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. John M. Shalikashvili said the affected service members are productive, valuable members of the armed services currently deemed fit for duty.

"While nondeployable, they join other service members in that category," according to the statement. About 6,000 service members suffer from other diseases making them nondeployable. DoD has a system in place to evaluate and determine whether HIVpositive service members are medically able to serve.

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