Being HIV positive will soon no longer be a barrier for serving in the armed forces, it has been announced on World Aids Day.
People with HIV are currently not able to join the armed forces, and anyone diagnosed while serving is no longer deemed ‘fully fit’ and banned from certain operations.
From today, those who do not have HIV but are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to protect themselves against infection will be able to join and serve with no restrictions.
Current personnel who are HIV positive will be permitted to take part in operations under reforms expected to come in during the spring, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
Meanwhile, ‘urgent work’ is underway to allow people with HIV, but on treatment and whose blood tests show no detectable virus, to also join.
A charity has hailed the ‘momentous’ news, saying there is ‘absolutely no reason’ why people living with HIV should not serve.
It comes after the military previously argued that permitting candidates to join who take regular medications would be a ‘logistical burden’.
PrEP will now be treated the same as taking contraception, meaning there will be no implication of discouraging use of the medication.
Announcing the decision today, Leo Docherty said it was ‘only right that we recognise and act on the latest scientific evidence’.
He added: ‘Drug treatment has revolutionised the lives and outcomes of people diagnosed with HIV.
‘I’m delighted that an exciting and fulfilling career in the armed forces is now open to many more people.’
Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust, named the changes the ‘right decision’, calling for them to be ‘urgently implemented’.
The sexual health charity boss said: ‘This is a momentous day which shows how far we have come in the fight against HIV.
‘It is absolutely the right decision and there is no reason why people living with HIV shouldn’t serve in our armed forces.
‘It’s crucial that all the medical progress that’s been made in HIV is reflected in our rules and regulations with the armed forces a clear outlier up until today.
‘These changes must now be urgently implemented. Many people will be surprised to learn that this ban was still in place and its removal will mean a huge amount to people living with HIV wanting to join or already serving in the military.’
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