Pentagon Reverses HIV Military Ban

Written by | HIV, The Lens

The brave women and men of the United States Armed Forces have fought for our national interests on land, sea and air.

But some wars rage from within.

Our LGBTQ+ family has gone through hell and back. We fought a battle on several fronts simultaneously; we lost some of our most precious angels, we wrestled with stigmatization, and we clamored for representation.

But unlike traditional wars, our successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS were not as celebrated as they should have been. In fact, many individuals who were willing to sacrifice their lives in military service were then given the ultimate dishonor: they were restricted from deployment and promotions due to their HIV status.

Imagine treating our heroes with such reprehensible disdain. Well, there’s no need to imagine it. That was our official policy… until now.

The Defense Department recently shifted its discriminatory policies against service members living with HIV. Several court cases have challenged the government’s classification of the condition as a chronic illness in light of the many medical advances we have made and continue to make. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has ruled that the Pentagon may not discharge or demote HIV-positive individuals who are asymptomatic.

Finally, the upper echelons of the American Armed Services are realizing what we gays have known for years: undetectable means untransmissible.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Government Affairs Director, David Stacy, released a statement on the matter that expresses how far we have come, yet foreshadows how far we still must march.

“Service members with HIV should be able to remain in the military and enjoy every opportunity for deployment or advancement as any other service member… Research has shown for years now that antiretroviral therapy is highly effective in shrinking the risk of HIV transmission to essentially zero. To maintain a discriminatory policy against service members living with HIV without the backing of medical evidence was unsustainable, and we’re glad to see our military leaders recognize that. And we’ll continue to push for the same policy to be applied to those who want to enlist. This week’s announcement was a good first step, but as long as some people are still being discriminated against for no good reason, there’s still work to be done.”

This looks like a job for the bravest squadron ever: the queer cadets of the U.S. military. Thank you for your service.

Last modified: June 10, 2022