On World AIDS Day, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it will lift a ban on people living with HIV serving in the military.
The outdated ban was implemented in 1985, at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and is still in place despite huge progress in treating and preventing the virus.
If a service member is diagnosed with HIV when they are already in the Armed Forces, they are no longer classed as “fully fit” and are unable to deploy to some operations.
Those who are taking medication to protect against the transmission of HIV, like PrEP, were also barred from service, as the military deems those taking regular medication a “logistical burden”, according to The Independent.
But on Wednesday (1 December), the MoD said the ban on military personnel with HIV would be lifted by next year, and HIV-positive service members will no longer be barred from operations.
Medication like PrEP will be viewed in the same way as contraception and will not be a barrier to service.
Defence minister Leo Docherty said in a statement: “Drug treatment has revolutionised the lives and outcomes of people diagnosed with HIV.
“As a modern and inclusive employer, it is only right that we recognise and act on the latest scientific evidence.
“I’m delighted that an exciting and fulfilling career in the Armed Forces is now open to many more people.”
Ian Green, chief executive of the HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, told the i in a statement: “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.”
Green said the announcement was “an incredibly powerful, stigma-busting message on World AIDS Day”, and added: “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.
“It also sends a clear message to everyone that HIV has changed and does not have to stop you doing anything you want to do.”