South Africa will start deploying HIV positive soldiers to peacekeeping operations, a defence ministry spokesman said on Friday.
Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans spokesman Ndivhuwo Wa Ha Mabaya said the department had drafted a framework for the way in which HIV positive soldiers should be deployed.
The framework was developed after the government lost a court battle against a group of HIV positive soldiers, who claimed they were being discriminated against in July 2008.
Support from Cabinet
Mabaya said the Cabinet had approved the framework for the deployment of HIV positive troops at the end of October, and it was now implementing it.
"We are holding workshops with all the stakeholders like the soldiers, NGOs, doctors and our deployment partners (the armies of other governments) to implement it," he said.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said at a meeting with soldiers at the Dunnottar Military Base near Springs in Gauteng on Friday, South Africa was the first country in the world which had "removed discrimination from our deployment policies".
"We should be proud of ourselves," she said.
Mabaya said the framework allowed for certain tasks that could be done by HIV positive soldiers when deployed that did not put them or their colleagues at risk. It also laid out a framework on how to care for HIV positive soldiers in deployment.
"They will not be deployed on the frontline in combat roles," said Mabaya. "They will be deployed in support roles."
Mabaya said the framework was being studied by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations. "We were consulting them while we developed the framework and they were never negative about it," he said. "Zimbabwe already said they wanted our framework, as they had the same problem as ours."
30% of soldiers HIV+
The BBC reported earlier in December that 30% of the soldiers in the SA National Defence Force were infected with HIV. The army has already deployed an HIV positive soldier to Sudan as part of peacekeeping operations in the troubled territory of Darfur, the BBC reported. - (Sapa, December 2009)