|AIDS and the Military (Best Practice - Points of View) (UNAIDS, 1998, 8 p.)|
· Military personnel have a high risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. In peacetime, STD infection rates among armed forces are generally 2 to 5 times higher than in comparable civilian populations. The difference can be even greater in times of conflict.
· Studies in the USA, the UK, and France show that soldiers from these countries have a much higher risk of HIV infection than equivalent age/sex groups in the civilian population. Recent figures from Zimbabwe and Cameroon show military HIV infection rates 3 to 4 times higher than in the civilian population.
· Although military personnel are highly susceptible to STD and HIV infections as a group, military service is also a unique opportunity in which HIV/AIDS prevention and education can be provided to a large captive audience in a disciplined, highly organized setting.
· Soldiers on deployment regularly have sexual contacts with sex workers (prostitutes) and the local population. For example, 45% of Dutch navy and marines personnel on peacekeeping duty in Cambodia had sexual contact with sex workers or other members of the local population during a five-month tour. Often condoms are not used consistently.
· Like women everywhere, female military personnel are especially vulnerable. As well as being at higher risk of HIV for physiological reasons that all women share, they are often at a disadvantage in sexual negotiations, including negotiations for condom use.
· HIV is a threat not only to military personnel but also to their families and community. Military HIV programmes are most effective if there is close collaboration with civilian health authorities.
· Probably the single most important factor leading to high rates of HIV in the military is the practice of posting personnel far from their accustomed communities and families for varying periods of time. As well as freeing them from traditional social controls, it removes them from contact with spouses or regular sexual partners and thereby encourages growth of sex industries in the areas where they are posted.
· According to an international survey done in 1995-96, HIV testing is carried out in some form by 93% of reporting militaries. About 80% of the military establishments that conduct pre-recruitment HIV screening reject candidates who test HIV-positive, and an equal percentage restrict HIV-positive personnel from combat, overseas deployment and piloting aircraft.
· UNAIDS believes that HIV-positive individuals in the military should be given every opportunity to do the tasks for which they have been trained and which they are still fit to perform. As well, armed forces should prepare to provide care and support for personnel and family members living with HIV and AIDS, including continuity of care as they return to civilian life.