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close this bookAIDS and the Military (Best Practice - Points of View) (UNAIDS, 1998, 8 p.)
close this folderAre military and civilian populations really that different when it comes to AIDS?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOpportunities for risky behaviour
View the documentThe risk-taking ethos and other attitudinal factors
View the documentSeparation from accustomed community


Military personnel are a population group at special risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV. In peace time, STD infection rates among armed forces are generally 2 to 5 times higher than in civilian populations; in time of conflict the difference can be 50 times higher or more. Paradoxically - and fortunately - strong traditions of organization and discipline give the military significant advantages if they move decisively against HIV/AIDS.

Recently, comparative studies of sexual behaviour in France, the UK and the USA showed that military personnel (both career and conscripted personnel) have a much higher risk of HIV infection than groups of equivalent age/sex in the civilian population. Armed forces in other parts of the world reflect the same phenomenon. A 1995 estimate of HIV in Zimbabwe, for instance, places the infection rate for the armed forces at 3 to 4 times higher than the level in the civilian population.

What is there in the military environment that raises the risk of HIV infection?

· Military and peacekeeping service often includes lengthy periods spent away from home, with the result that personnel are often looking for ways to relieve loneliness, stress and the building up of sexual tension.

· The military’s professional ethos tends to excuse or even encourage risk-taking.

· Most personnel are in the age group at greatest risk for HIV infection - the sexually active 15 - 24-year age group.

· Personnel sent on peacekeeping missions often have more money in their pockets than local people, giving them the financial means to purchase sex.

· Military personnel and camps, including the installations of peacekeeping forces, attract sex workers and those who deal in illicit drugs.