British armed forces allow people with HIV to enlist

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at an event thanking the British Armed Forces for their role in the evacuation operation in Afghanistan earlier this year in London, Britain on November 24, 2021. British Parliament / Jessica Taylor / Handout via REUTERS

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LONDON, Dec. 1 (Reuters) – Britain plans to allow people tested with HIV to join the military if they no longer carry a detectable amount of the virus, its defense ministry said on Wednesday.

Service members who become infected with HIV after enlistment may already remain in the military – although they are classified as not fully fit, a categorization the Defense Ministry said it plans to change as well.

“Drug therapy has revolutionized the lives and outcomes of people diagnosed with HIV. As a modern and inclusive employer, it is right that we recognize and act on the basis of the latest scientific evidence,” Defense Minister Leo said Docherty.

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The United States also currently prohibits people living with HIV from joining its military and has faced a legal challenge over its policy of not allowing enlisted HIV-positive personnel to become officers.

With the right treatment, the amount of virus in the blood of people infected with HIV can be reduced to undetectable levels, which in turn effectively eliminates the chances of them passing the virus that causes AIDS to others.

From the start of next year, serving UK servicemen who have tested positive for HIV, but no longer carry a detectable viral load, will be classified as in good shape, meaning they can be deployed to military operations.

People taking medicines that reduce the risk of contracting HIV will also be able to join the armed forces. Historically, anyone taking medication regularly has not been able to join the British armed forces, with a few exceptions such as contraceptives.

The planned changes have been welcomed by the National AIDS Trust of Great Britain. “A career in the military was the only career not open to people living with HIV in the UK, and with this much-needed change, the military will be better able to meet its obligation to promote inclusion in its ranks.” said Deborah Gold, the CEO of the trust.

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Reporting by David Milliken Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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