Health Experts Discuss How HIV/AIDS Among Military Personnel Creates Threat to Government Stability Worldwide
Health experts on Tuesday as part of a six-day training course in San Antonio hosted by the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, said that the spread of HIV among military personnel worldwide is a "threat the to stability of governments around the world," the San Antonio Express-News reports (Tumiel, San Antonio Express-News, 12/15). Military leaders from 24 African and South American countries gathered to meet with U.S. military personnel to examine ways to manage and halt the spread of HIV, focusing on HIV in military forces, the AP/Plainview Daily Herald reports. Representatives attending the course are expected to share ideas about effective prevention methods and "best practices," according to Col. Matthew Dolan, chief of medical operations at the institute (AP/Plainview Daily Herald, 12/15). The course aims to "enhance the ability of senior civilian officials and military leaders to develop, implement and strengthen the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS policies for their militaries," according to an institute release. The course also hopes to help attendees to develop sustainable strategies and policies on HIV/AIDS and address "global and national perspectives," according to the release (DIMO release, 2004).
HIV in Military Personnel
The U.S. military has kept HIV incidence low through careful screening for HIV and illegal drug use, Dolan said, adding that Air Force personnel participate in mandatory HIV testing every two years and receive briefings on HIV/AIDS before overseas deployment. Dolan said that about 35 to 45 new HIV cases are reported among Air Force personnel annually, but he added, "[W]e'd like it to be zero" (San Antonio Express-News, 12/15). In some countries, about 50% of military personnel are HIV-positive, which military leaders say is dangerous, according to Keith Sabin, a CDC epidemiologist. "They said, 'We are very concerned. There will not be sufficient numbers of men to serve in the uniformed services because they will all be sick and dying, and these are the institutions that maintain a lawful and civil society,'" Sabin said. Maj. Robert McConnell, director of infection control at Wilford Hall Medical Center, said, "This is really at the forefront of their consciousness in maintaining a strong military and a stable country" (AP/Plainview Daily Herald, 12/15). Several countries have adopted slogans that stress HIV prevention in military troops, McConnell said, according to the Express-News. "There are things in the military that are unique pressures," Dolan said, adding, "It is a sexually active age, and they are away from their homes and families and their regular partners, and they are taught to be bold and to take risks. We try to look at these pressures and how we can deal with them" (San Antonio Express-News, 12/15).