HIV Education in the Military
By Brian Ledford
December 3, 2013
I found this site made by a fellow HIV Positive Marine A Positive Tomorrow and it is a really well made site (might have to get him to give me some site building tips). On his site he has a video called "HIV Education in the Military" where he and his partner have some very valid points about the HIV education Military members are receiving and how HIV effects not just the individual but the whole unit. Please take the time to watch.
He is correct that HIV infections are on the rise in the Military and in main part due to the lack of education the Military offers on HIV. Of course we all got the safety briefs and were told "if you tap it, wrap it", but how much does that really help?
As a whole, HIV is not really talked about that much in the Military except when you are told you are due for a test which was every 2 years while I was in or if you were about to deploy, which is how I found out. I think now it is really important that these subjects be talked about because of the repeal of DADT and the fact that service members are now able to openly serve. Service members in all branches are putting themselves at higher risk of being infected with HIV because nobody wants to talk about it and lay down the facts; and because most service members have the mindset that it could never happen to them. It is that mindset that needs to be changed and the only way of doing that is through education.
When a service member test positive for HIV, it not only effects them but effects their unit as well. It happened to me and my unit right before we were scheduled to deploy. HIV Positive service members are not allowed to deploy to a combat zone right now, even if they have the ability to still perform their job to the best of their ability. These restrictions can mean that a unit is either deploying without essential personal or that they are having to find people to replace that service member at the last minute. This can have a huge negative impact on the unit's readiness and cohesion. It is also harmful to that service member when they all of a sudden can not deploy with their unit and have to face either telling them the truth why they were pulled off the deployment or come up with some kind of story to tell. All of this could be prevented if the Military would step up and start offering better education to service members about the risk of HIV.
Yes service members who test positive for HIV are still allowed to stay on Active Duty and can serve a full 20+ years if they choose to, but they are unable to be assigned to a deployable unit and have many restrictions on where they can be stationed and what jobs they are allowed to do. Not being able to deploy also hurts a service members chances of promotions and advancements because they lack the experiences which others may have. No matter how well they are able to perform their duties they often times get over looked because of their nondeployable status.
HIV education in the Military needs to be revised so that service members are not receiving out of date facts and so they know the true risk of HIV. Those service members who may be at risk for HIV need to take the initiative and talk to their Dr. about PrEP (pre-exposure prohylaxis) and what they can do to keep themselves and others safe so they are able to keep fighting for and defending this great nation of our.
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This is my story of how I found out I was HIV-positive while still on Active Duty in the United States Marine Corps and how I have tried to put the pieces of my life back together through the good times and the bad. I am currently a full time student working on a degree in Information Security Technology, which seems to be taking forever. I want to help make a difference and erase HIV related Stigma in the South, where due to lack of education people still do not know that much about HIV. If my story reaches out and helps at least one person, then I have made a difference.
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