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The BBC's Greg Barrow in Johannesburg
"The decision could have far more important ramifications"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 August, 2000, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Aids law in the dock
Deputy President Zuma
Aids is a burning political question in South Africa
A landmark case has opened at the Constitutional Court in South Africa which will contest an employer's right to refuse employment to people who have tested HIV positive.

It is thought that the case could have wide repercussions - perhaps allowing the possibility of health insurance for people with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.


The case is significant because it the first Constitutional Court case in South Africa on the issue of HIV/Aids in workplace discrimination, including pre-employment HIV testing

Lawyer Fatima Hassan
The case is being brought by Jacques Hoffmann, who was refused a job as a cabin attendant at South African Airways because he is HIV positive.

His lawyers say the decision infringed his rights to equality and dignity and took no consideration of whether he was healthy enough to carry out the work.

New laws

Under new employment legislation the testing of job applicants for HIV is illegal in South Africa, but Mr Hoffman applied for his job before this legislation came into force.

This case is expected to focus on whether people who are HIV positive are still healthy enough to carry out normal jobs.

Mr Hoffmann had already passed a series of other medical tests with no problems.

"The case is significant because it the first Constitutional Court case in South Africa on the issue of HIV/Aids in workplace discrimination, including pre-employment HIV testing," lawyer Fatima Hassan told the BBC.

South Africa's Constitutional Court exists to enforce the principles enshrined in the country's post-apartheid bill of rights, which outlaw all forms of discrimination.

Ramifications

Mr Hoffman's lawyers believe they have a strong chance of overturning the decision by South African Airways to refuse him employment.

But correspondents say that such a decision could have far more important ramifications.

If the court decides that HIV testing is not a reasonable way of judging an individual's general health, then insurance companies that currently refuse life policies to HIV positive people could also find themselves open to legal action.

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See also:

14 Jul 00 | Health
Mandela urges unity against Aids
14 Jul 00 | Media reports
Mandela's Aids speech: Excerpts
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