'Deploy or Get Out' Is Trump Administration Military Policy
New Civil Rights Movement | July 27, 2018
President Donald Trump is preparing to discharge U.S. Military service members living with HIV.
“A person’s HIV status wasn’t always an obstacle to service,” Matt Baume writes at Condé Nast’s Them. But, “a new Trump-administration policy would aim to clear the military of anyone living with HIV.”
On Valentine’s Day Trump instituted a new policy for the military. Instead of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s called, “Deploy or Get Out.”
Under the new policy, approved by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, military personnel who are medically unable to deploy, according to the Military Times, must be discharged after 12 months. Troops who are pregnant are exempt from the policy.
Baume reports that “due to an antiquated policy dating back to the early days of the epidemic, HIV+ servicemembers are considered undeployable.” President Barack Obama did not discharge HIV-positive troops.
According to Lambda Legal senior counsel Scott Schoettes, about 1200 service members are living with HIV.
“There are lots of qualified people who serve in positions that doesn’t require them to deploy. It seems foolish to get rid of those people,” Schoettes says.
Foolish especially since for many treatment for HIV can be just a pill a day and occasional blood tests, Baume says.
“Living with HIV today is much different than it was 25 years ago,” said Carlos del Rio, MD, an Emory University medical professor and co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, in a statement provided by Lambda Legal. “Today, with appropriate treatment, there is no reason a person living with HIV shouldn’t be able to serve in any capacity in the military.”
A federal lawsuit to block the Pentagon from discharging HIV-positive service members was “filed in May by Nicholas Harrison, a 41-year-old Oklahoman whose National Guard unit was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and Kuwait in 2011, according to the complaint,” Bloombergreports. “Under the new policy, HIV-positive service members are already being discharged and having their duties restricted, according to his suit.”
The “Deploy or Get Out” policy will, depending on the outcome of court cases, also be used by Trump and Mattis to discharge transgender service members. It goes into mandatory effect October 1.