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All military members will be tested for the human immunodeficiency virus every two years, according to a directive from Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Winkenwerder issued the new testing policy recently in a memorandum to all the services.

The new policy is based on a recommendation by the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, said a source with the DOD Health Affairs office, and standardizes the testing policy across the services.

Previously, the Army had been testing soldiers approximately every two years; the Navy was testing sailors annually and the Air Force was testing every three to five years.

The AFEB is a scientific body that advises the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and the military surgeons-general.

Under the new policy, reserve component members will be required to have a test within two years of a mobilization to active duty for more than 30 days, said the source, who asked not to be identified.

“This testing helps identify HIV-infected servicemembers as early as possible to allow military health care providers to implement early antiretroviral therapy and counseling to reduce HIV transmission,” he said.

Also, he said, “All servicemembers may continue to request an HIV test without stating the reason for the test.”

The military began testing for HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, in the mid-1980s.

In the latest year for which figures are available, about 250 military members tested positive for HIV. That includes 97 in the Army in 2002, 101 in the Navy in 2001 and 49 in the Air Force for 2002.

In addition, 236 applicants for military service — not military members — were identified at Military Entrance Processing Stations.

In its study prior to making the recommendation, the AFEB discovered that HIV infection as measured by testing in the services had stabilized at about two per 10,000 personnel, a lower figure than estimates for the general civilian population in the United States.

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