On December 26, 2013 the President of the United States Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA). The Act contains important provisions for HIV criminalization reform advocates and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. Specifically, the Act contains language from an amendment co-sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – H.R. 1843, the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Action. According to a statement issued by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, “This amendment requires a report to Congress on the use of the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding military service members living with or at risk of contracting HIV. This report is essential to understanding how we can modernize discriminatory and outdated laws and practices related to HIV.” The Act also contains another provision which will bring an end to criminal prosecutions of “consensual sodomy” within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Passage of the Act was widely welcomed by public health leaders, HIV and human rights advocates. The Positive Justice Project, an HIV network in the US, issued a statement in support of the new NDAA provisions: “The [Department of Defense bill’s] directive … will require the Secretary of Defense to examine and justify two major aspects of military policy that have subjected people with HIV to negative treatment based on their health condition: automatic exclusion from enlistment, and from certain assignments for those who become infected after enlistment; and restrictions on consensual sexual relationships that can lead to prosecution and expulsion from service when violated.” SERO, another US-based HIV network advocating for HIV criminalization reform, also released a statement supporting the bill: “This is a significant first step toward reforming the military’s HIV-related policies, and is the first time that Congress has taken action of any kind to address HIV criminalization.” SERO further called for support for the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, recently introduced to the Senate by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) and to the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which would “initiate a broader federal effort to review HIV criminalization statutes in each state and help modernize them to be evidence-based and not unduly stigmatize people with HIV.” Related articles US: Congress passes key provision to address overly broad HIV criminalization in the military (HIV Justice Network) Congresswoman Barbara Lee on Passage of 2014 NDAA (http://lee.house.gov) Text of Report on Uniform Code of Military Justice and HIV/AIDS Amendment (http://lee.house.gov) Health and Legal Professionals Welcome HIV Policy Assessment Directive in Defense Bill: Time for Department of Defense policies to reflect current science, say HIV physicians, nurses and advocates (Positive Justice Project) The US Military and HIV: A Huge Step Forward (POZ)
National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 a positive step towards HIV criminalization reform in US military
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