Mitigating the Impact of the Repeal of DADT
The Obama administration is pushing the implementation of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), therefore it is necessary to consider the impact of this on military readiness and take immediate steps to mitigate that impact.
Of prime concern must be the health of enlistees. According to the CDC, men who have sex with men (MSM) are 44 times more likely than other men to be HIV positive and 48 times more likely to be diagnosed with syphilis. And the problem is getting worse. From 2001 to 2006, new HIV diagnoses among black MSM aged 13-24 increased by 93%. MSM are also more likely to have a wide range of other sexually transmitted diseases (STD). A member of the military who contracts HIV cannot be deployed and becomes an immediate and long term burden. Since infection with another STD is a sign of engaging in behavior that puts one at risk for HIV, all applicants should be tested for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis, and gonorrhea, and those who test positive rejected.
The use of illegal drugs by members of the military is prohibited. Among MSM, illegal drug use, and particularly the use of crystal meth, is ubiquitous. While the new regulations state that simply going to a ‘gay bar’ is not prohibited, they also state that the military may designate an establishment off-limits if there is “know or suspected criminal activity or drug use” on the premises. Virtually every venue where MSM congregate – including gay bars, bathhouses, and circuit parties – is a place where drugs are sold and used. The military should move quickly to declare all such establishments ‘off limits.” Since at all these venues sex — and particularly unprotected sex with virtual strangers occurs — this will also protect the health of military MSM.
Since much of the solicitation for sexual partners by MSM now takes place on websites like Manhunt and these sites have been linked to the spread of HIV and other STDs, the military should bar service men from accessing these sites.
Gay AIDS activists have consistently rejected the application of standard public health strategies for the control of STDs to the HIV epidemic. They insisted that education on condom use would reduce the risk on infection. This strategy has failed and the epidemic continues to spiral out of control among MSM. The military should not follow their example. All men who infected with any other STD should be tested for HIV and told the results. They should be required to provide the names and contact information for all their sexual partners and these should be notified and tested.
Good medical practice recommends that MSM be tested for STDs every 6 months. Since the military cannot treat MSM differently than other members of the military, every service person should be tested for a wide range of STDs regularly and once a person tests positive, more frequent testing required.
Recruits should be informed of these rules before enlisting. Enforcement of these rules will disproportionately impact MSM. This is not discrimination, but necessary to assure maximum readiness.