Number of HIV Cases Among U.S. Military Personnel Drops 30% Over Last Five Years
The number of HIV cases among U.S. military personnel has fallen 30% in the last five years, Capt. Glenn Schnepf of the Bethesda, Md.-based National Naval Medical Center said Monday at a meeting of 28 foreign military representatives in Monterey, Calif., the Monterey County Herald reports. Schnepf works with the medical center's HIV program, which administers HIV testing and counseling for Navy personnel. The military began testing personnel for HIV in the mid-1980s, when those who tested positive for the disease were asked to leave the service. That policy was changed by 1990, and now HIV-positive personnel are allowed to stay in the military "unless they develop AIDS." According to Schnepf, the military conducts "long confidential interviews" with all personnel who test HIV-positive, asking questions to determine risk behaviors and to trace sexual partners who should also be tested. In addition, all military personnel are required to have at least one hour of AIDS education every year, the Herald reports. Schnepf said that the training, which covers topics such as Defense Department policies and HIV transmission and prevention, is helping to decrease the number of HIV infections in the military. Schnepf said he is concerned that the military's education program is not reaching young, inner-city black men. Although about 60% of new HIV infections among military personnel are due to homosexual contact, he said that infections due to heterosexual contact are increasing. "We cannot use the talk tailored for your average gay white male. We need to tailor the talk for your average heterosexual inner-city black male," he said, adding that the same preparation should be taken by the foreign militaries represented at the meeting. "It's got to be culturally appropriate. The message that works for one group of people will not necessarily work for another group of people."
Increasing Global Threat
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Health and Science Jack Chow told the military representatives, who mostly came from developing countries in Africa and the Americas, that the AIDS pandemic threatens global security, the Herald reports. "We are seeing, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the explosion of orphans and abandoned children. ... Just looking at the [situation], one is concerned about future stability," Chow said. He said that AIDS is a "distinctly different threat" than the "direct threats" that military officers normally encounter. "The central point to winning this campaign is that the virus is the enemy," Chow concluded (Fields, Monterey County Herald, 11/19).