In February of this year, the Trump administration unveiled new policies that, if implemented, would effectively bar people living with HIV from serving in the military. The policy was outlined in a Department of Defense memo and described by Under Secretary of Defense for Personal Readiness Robert Wilkie as a "deploy or be removed policy," which the administration claims is meant to improve military readiness for deployment. The policy instructs the Pentagon to discharge any service member who is unable to be deployed outside of the country for more than 12 months. Unfortunately, because of archaic and discriminatory regulations that were put in place before the advent of antiretroviral therapies, all HIV-positive soldiers are seen as "undeployable." This would mean that, under the Trump administration, all current service members living with HIV would be discharged as early as October 1st. Moreover, civilians living with HIV who wish to join the military are currently barred from doing so and unfortunately this rule would reinforce this unreasonable bar to military service.
An estimated 1,200 people living with HIV currently serve in our military with honor and distinction, and AIDS United opposes this and any policy that tries to use military readiness as an excuse to promote an ideology of discrimination and stigma. Just as was the case with recent attempts to bar transgender individuals from military service, this latest discriminatory decision is rooted in prejudice and the politics of division. We are heartened that a court challenge has already been filed by Lambda Legal representing Sergeant Nick Harrison and hope that the courts will prevent this rule from taking effect. This nation is built on the principles of freedom and justice, and we stand on their side in this fight. We urge this administration to reconsider its decision and to allow people living with HIV to serve without limitation or qualification.
[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by AIDS United on July 23, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]