Center for American Progress

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Will Improve the Health of Our Armed Forces
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Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Will Improve the Health of Our Armed Forces

DoD and the services may review their existing regulations on HIV as needed to maintain the health of the force—as with any military policy.

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The RAND Corporation study group examined the issue of HIV transmission and AIDS for its 1993 study and found that “DoD’s testing program for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) almost entirely prevents the entry of HIV-infected individuals into the military.” This is still true today. DoD already possesses sufficient regulations to identify and control the spread of HIV in our armed forces. These regulations do not single out service members for testing or restricted duty on the basis of their race or gender—both factors that contribute to different risks for HIV infection—and would not require modifications in order to accommodate openly gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen or women, Marines, or coastguardsmen or women.

DoD uses a general policy to address service members with HIV or AIDS. DoD Instruction 6485.01, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, makes clear that persons who are HIV positive or suffer from AIDS are not eligible to enlist or be appointed for military service. Current active duty service members must be screened every two years, and reserve personnel “shall be screened when called to a period of active duty greater than 30 days if they have not received an HIV test within the last 2 years.” Those service members found to be HIV positive receive training to reduce the risk of transmitting the disease.

DoD and the services may review their existing regulations on HIV as needed to maintain the health of the force—as with any military policy. Indeed, the International Conference on AIDS paper suggests that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy probably increases the risk of HIV transmission due to the inherent limitations the policy imposes on patient-doctor relations.

On the whole, however, the restrictions preventing HIV-positive personnel from joining the U.S. armed forces, as well as regular mandatory testing requirements, should be more than  adequate to dismiss suggestions that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will result in a substantial spike in military HIV infections.

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