People living with HIV will be allowed to enlist in Britain’s army if they no longer carry a detectable amount of the virus.
In an announcement on World AIDS Day on 1 December, the Ministry of Defence said it also plans to change the fact that those who have the virus in the army are classed as not fully fit.
Under current rules, people with HIV cannot join the armed forces and those diagnosed with the virus while serving are no longer viewed as “fully fit” and therefore banned from certain military operations.
From early 2022, serving military personnel in Britain who no longer carry a detectable viral load will be classified as fully fit and therefore able to partake in military operations.
In the past, anyone taking regular medication has typically been prohibited from joining Britain’s armed forces, but those taking drugs to lower the risk of contracting HIV, such as PrEP, will now be included in the exceptions to this rule.
Leo Docherty, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said: “Drug treatment has revolutionised the lives and outcomes of people diagnosed with HIV. As a modern and inclusive employer, it is only right that we recognise and act on the latest scientific evidence.”
When someone living with the virus takes the right treatment, the amount of HIV in their blood can be lowered to such a level that it is undetectable and therefore untransmittable.
Ian Green, chief executive at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This is a momentous day which shows how far we have come in the fight against HIV.
“It is absolutely the right decision and there is no reason why people living with HIV shouldn’t serve in our armed forces.
“It’s crucial that all the medical progress that’s been made in HIV is reflected in our rules and regulations with the armed forces a clear outlier up until today.
“These changes must now be urgently implemented. Many people will be surprised to learn that this ban was still in place and its removal will mean a huge amount to people living with HIV wanting to join or already serving in the military.”
Those living with HIV remain banned from enlisting in America’s armed forces.
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) December 1, 2021