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Marine hero with HIV said he is unable to serve abroad, wins battle and changes law

Lieutenant Commander Oli Brown, 30, who is HIV positive, pushed for the policy change after being told he would be medically downgraded despite being on suppressive treatment and having no detectable virus.

Oli Brown, the Navy commander with HIV who helped change the law
Oli Brown, the Navy commander with HIV who helped change the law

The Royal Navy officer, who led a campaign for the military not to treat those infected with HIV differently than their colleagues, said he was proud to have changed the law.

Lieutenant Commander Oli Brown, 30, who is HIV positive, pushed for the policy change after being told he would be medically downgraded despite being on suppressive treatment and having no detectable virus.

Starting today, recruits with HIV who are taking pre-exposure prophylactic medication to prevent infection can join the armed forces and be assigned to operations. Serving HIV-positive personnel will be declared fully fit.

The historic lifting of the restriction means Britain has become the second country in the world, after South Africa, to update its rules in line with HIV medical advances.

Oli, who joined the Navy aged 19 and quickly rose through the ranks, was accidentally discovered to be infected with HIV after a bicycle accident in 2019 led to a blood test.

He said: “It was a shock. The three questions I asked myself were: What will my life be like?

“When will I die? And do I still have a job?

“The first two questions were answered quickly. I take one pill a day and can’t pass it on. HIV doesn’t limit your life in terms of length or lifestyle.” But when he told colleagues, the Navy downgraded him unfit for overseas deployment.







Oli, who joined the Navy at the age of 19 and rose quickly through the ranks, was accidentally discovered with HIV
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Picture:

DAILY MIRROR)

Oli said: “I had the stigma of having HIV and being of limited capacity. It made me feel like I couldn’t do my job even though I knew I wasn’t.

“Every time I went to my changing room, I would sit and stare at the walls and cry with grief. I was downgraded for depression and anxiety and sent home on sick leave.”

After advice from the Terrence Higgins Trust, Oli decided to challenge a campaign against the military’s ban on HIV-positive people joining the armed forces.

The Department of Defense announced the rule change last year on December 1, World AIDS Day, and the restrictions are effective today.

Oli says: “As of today, for the first time since I told them about my diagnosis, I can be considered fully fit.

“The biggest thing is that no one else will feel like I do.

“The message is loud and clear, people living with HIV are not restricted.”

Debbie Laycock of the Terrence Higgins Trust said Oli had achieved a “groundbreaking change”.

She said: “This is an important day that shows how far we have come in 40 years.

“The changes reflect the reality that there is no reason why people living with HIV should not serve in our armed forces.”

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/navy-hero-hiv-told-unfit-27285240 Marine hero with HIV said he is unable to serve abroad, wins battle and changes law

Fry Electronics Team

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