Peace Corps Boots HIV-Positive Volunteer

Jeremiah Johnson was kicked out, and now he's considering a lawsuit.

ByABC News
May 9, 2008, 11:43 AM

May 9, 2008 — -- Jeremiah Johnson was still reeling from test results showing he was HIV-positive when he received even more bad news in January.

The 25-year-old Peace Corps volunteer teaching English at a high school in the Ukraine was kicked out of the Corps.

Johnson was informed by the Corps, the legendary federal agency that has placed generations of volunteers in impoverished and needy areas around the world, that he was on "automatic medical separation," which disqualified him from serving in another country.

Now Johnson, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union, is considering a lawsuit against the Corps, claiming that it was discriminating against him because of his HIV status.

Federal law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"I couldn't believe it," Johnson, who is now back in the U.S., waiting tables at restaurants in Denver, told

"It's very disillusioning. The Corps is a very progressive organization and the fact that their policy is so behind the times is really disappointing."

Johnson, who was teaching English at a high school in the town of Rozdilna, says that several days after his test results, the agency's office in Kiev told him that he had to leave due to Ukrainian law, which does not permit foreigners with HIV to work in the country.

When he came back to Washington, he was hoping to transfer to another country. "But they simply informed me that when you're HIV positive, it's an automatic medical separation."

Johnson isn't interested in returning to the Corps, since his term was almost up at the time, but he wants to change the agency's policy "so that this doesn't happen to another volunteer in the future."

His lawyer at the ACLU, Rebecca Shore, says that "we have heard from another returned Peace Corps volunteer who was HIV-positive and was medically separated."

A spokeswoman for the Corps, Amanda Beck, said she was not able to discuss the matter because Johnson has not officially waived his privacy rights.