Defense Department reverses rule, allows HIV-positive members to serve

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that individuals with HIV will no longer be barred from service.

Effective immediately, individuals who are HIV-positive but asymptomatic and with an undetectable viral load will no longer have restrictions applied to them. Additionally, they cannot be separated from their peers or discharged due to their illness.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made the announcement in a memo on June 6, citing advances in medical technology as justification for the change in regulation.

“In view of significant advances in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), it is necessary to update DOD policy with respect to individuals who have been identified as HIV-positive,” the memo states.

“Individuals who have been identified as HIV positive, are asymptomatic and who have a clinically confirmed undetectable viral load (hereinafter, ‘covered personnel’) will have no restrictions applied to their deployability or to their ability to commission while a service member solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status.”

HIV-positive service members will be expected to follow treatment and evaluation in line with the standard procedure for troops with chronic illnesses.

“A service member with laboratory evidence of [HIV] infection will be referred for appropriate treatment and a medical evaluation of fitness for continued service in the same manner as a service member with other chronic or progressive illnesses, including evaluation on a case-by-case basis,” the document continues. “Covered personnel will not be discharged or separated solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status.”

The move has been celebrated as another positive step for the US military’s LGBTQ community under the Biden administration.

One of President Biden’s first moves in office was to lift the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military when he took office, and the Veterans Affairs Department moved to make gender confirmation surgery available to transgender individuals through Veterans Affairs health care coverage in June 2021.



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