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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
SA landmark HIV ruling
South African Airways plane
South African Airways will now have to employ the steward
By Jane Standley in Johannesburg

South Africa's constitutional court has handed down a landmark ruling that an employer cannot refuse a job to a person who tests positive for HIV.

The judgement will have wide-reaching implications in a country with the fastest rate of increase of HIV infections in the world, 1,500 every day.

The ruling follows a case in which South Africa's national airline refused to employ a cabin attendant who tested positive.

Jacques Hoffman was refused a job with South African Airways even though he had already passed a series of other medical tests with no problems.

Illegal test

Under new employment legislation, it is now illegal in South Africa to test people for HIV.

SA baby
More than 10% of South Africans are estimated to have the HIV virus
But Mr Hoffman applied for his job before the law came into force.

His lawyers argued that not only had he been discriminated against on the grounds of his HIV status but that South African Airways had also taken no consideration of whether he was healthy enough to carry out the work.

The airline now has to offer Mr Hoffman the same job for which he had applied and must pay all his costs.

South Africa already has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, outlawing all forms of discrimination, but this judgment also sets a precedent in the argument over whether people who are HIV positive are still healthy enough to carry out normal jobs and it has important ramifications.

Insurance companies, for example, which currently refuse medical and life insurance to people with HIV could find themselves open to legal action.

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