The Department of Health and Human Services announced on World AIDS Day that people living with HIV and chronic hepatitis B will be allowed to join the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The USPHS Commissioned Corps — housed under HHS and led by Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health, and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy — is one of eight uniformed services. They are the only one dedicated to the sole protection and advancement of American health. Public health service officers are the first in line to defend the nation against health threats.
An HHS release noted that treatments in recent years have made HIV and hepatitis B more manageable, and the chronic conditions are now compared to hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
“As we recognize World AIDS Day and the progress made, I am honored to be a part of a change much bigger than our service,” Levine said in a statement. “By changing our medical accession standards to reflect the latest evidence, we show that we are putting science first.”
The updated medical accession standards under the USPHS Commissioned Corps, in effect December 1, allows HIV-positive applicants on antiretroviral therapy. They must have an undetectable viral load and show no evidence of impaired immunity to avoid disqualification. Those with chronic hepatitis B must also show low viral blood levels and no evidence of significant liver damage.
“The dedicated officers who serve the USPHS Commissioned Corps work tirelessly to protect, promote, and advance the health of our nation,” said U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy. “We are thrilled to announce this step to expand eligibility for those who want to serve their nation as Public Health Service officers.”