U.S. Navy Opens More Assignments to HIV-Positive Sailors, Marines

This article was reported by Stars and Stripes.

Stars and Stripes reported today that sailors and Marines with blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, can now serve overseas and on large-ship-platform assignments, a privilege the Navy has long denied them. The Navy's Personnel Command recently approved the rule and announced implementation guidance after taking a year to review the policy issued by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in August 2012.

Being barred from overseas and on-ship assignments meant that sailors and Marines had few career choices and advancement opportunities. With medical advances, HIV-positive persons can now enjoy healthy lives for 20-30 years and take less medication, which makes treatment outside the United States possible.

"Navy Personnel Command is following the direction of the Secretary, and has begun assigning sailors with blood-borne pathogens to operational [outside the continental U.S.] platforms," according to a statement from Navy Personnel Command Spokesperson Mike McLellan. "At this point, less than 0.1 percent of Navy's population fall into these categories." He did not provide information on the number of sailors and Marines that had been placed on these assignments already, nor how many have yet to be placed.

The policy only applies to HIV-positive sailors and Marines who have minimal medical complications. "In the case of HIV-positive service members, these personnel and the services have put a lot of time and effort into their careers, and there is no medical reason for them not to be able to continue serving with pride," said Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Spokesperson Shoshona Pilip-Florea in December. According to the instruction, post commanders, medical personnel, and detailers have veto power for each request.

The Navy currently bars persons who already have HIV from joining the Navy or Marines.