DoD Standardizes HIV Test Interval Across All Services
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 21, 2004 Military members are now required to be tested for HIV every two years, according to a Defense Department health policy change implemented March 29.
The Armed Forces Epidemiological Board recommended the change, which standardizes the HIV testing interval across the services, according to Dr. David N. Tornberg, deputy assistant secretary of defense for clinical and program policy, during a May 20 interview.
DoD requires HIV testing, Tornberg explained, because it is responsible for maintaining the health and well-being of all service members.
Previously, Tornberg noted, HIV testing intervals varied among the armed services. The military began testing service members for HIV, he said, in the mid-1980s.
Today, "we're optimizing testing," Tornberg explained, citing medical studies that show very few people with HIV become sick with AIDS within two years of being infected.
Therefore, service members who test HIV positive under the new two-year interval, he noted, are most likely to benefit from anti-viral drugs and other treatments that help keep the disease at bay.
"We're looking to protect the individual," Tornberg said, noting that HIV- positive service members are not automatically discharged and may continue on with their military careers.
The two-year interval also enables DoD to consolidate HIV testing for deployments. For example, he noted, Guard and Reserve members are now to have been tested for HIV within two years of a mobilization of more than 30 days.
Tornberg pointed out that both male and female service members could acquire HIV, which can be transmitted sexually, through intravenous drug use, or via blood transfusions.
People can help protect themselves from being infected with HIV, Tornberg observed, by employing safe sexual practices, including having monogamous relationships, and by not engaging in drug abuse practices.
The HIV infection rate across the military is about 2 out of every 10,000 service members, Tornberg said, which is equal to or lower than the civilian population in the United States for the same age and gender.
"Our service people can avoid HIV infection, as can all individuals," he concluded.