The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) joined numerous health and legal professionals in supporting a required report on the military’s HIV and hepatitis B policies that was included in the 2014 defense bill which Congress passed Dec. 20.
The FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act includes two provisions that have the potential to eliminate discriminatory policies around HIV and hepatitis B by compelling the Department of Defense to medically justify current policies. This is a significant step toward reform of HIV criminalization laws.
The provisions require the Secretary of Defense to prepare a report for Congress concerning members of the Armed Forces who have HIV or hepatitis B. The report is to include a description of policies "addressing the enlistment or commissioning of individuals with these conditions” as well as “retention policies, deployment policies, discharge policies and disciplinary policies regarding individuals with these conditions." The defense act specifies that the report must include an assessment of whether these policies "reflect an evidence-based, medically accurate understanding" of how these conditions are contracted and transmitted.
Michael Horberg, MD, FIDSA, an HIVMA Board member and former chair, hailed the defense bill’s HIV directive in a press release
(PDF) issued by the Positive Justice Project, a network of individuals and agencies representing people with HIV. “The notion that people with HIV cannot enlist and serve in any aspect of the military, or that their health status warrants special 'safe sex' orders or punishments for consensual sex, seems rooted in a 1980’s understanding of HIV, and flies in the face of national efforts to get people with HIV tested and into treatment.”
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