The Coast Guard recently updated policies for service members who are identified as positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
The Coast Guard now aligns with the Department of Defense (DoD). The update removes deployment restrictions and allows current Coast Guard service members to seek a commission without the need for a personnel waiver. A medical waiver will be available to members who have an undetectable viral load and remain asymptomatic.
The policy’s revision means that personnel living with HIV will be deemed “worldwide deployable” providing their infection is optimally managed. This policy includes Coast Guard Academy cadets and midshipmen, ROTC cadets and midshipmen, and other participants in service commissioning programs.
“There is recognition across the military services that there have been significant advances in how we diagnose and manage HIV,” said Capt. Shane Steiner, chief of Operational Medicine. “We have seen how the disease changed from life-threatening to one that can be managed with medication as with many other chronic diseases. This update reflects the success of HIV treatment in the 21st century. Modern treatment of HIV is capable of controlling the virus. Now, deployability and continued service are not solely about someone’s HIV status, but based on whether or not they can do their job.”
Capt. Steiner pointed out, “The changes we’ve made to the Medical Manual so far are the first step but there is still work to be done on how to operationalize the standards and how they will be implemented across our enterprise.”
The Coast Guard’s medical personnel will continue to work with DoD to develop our standards and to implement this policy. For example, criteria requiring a deeper look include the length of time a person with HIV must be symptom-free and have a non-detectable viral load prior to deployment, and consideration of impacts due to medication side effects on the individual or mission.
If you have any questions refer to ALCOAST 267/22 or contact COMDT (CG-112) at HQS-DG-LST-CG-112-SP@USCG.MIL.