If the policy were different, Lt. Jones might be transferring to the U.S. Air Force now, knowing the service is short on pilots.
But Jones, who has served in the Navy since 2010, will extend his career there instead of joining the Air Force Reserve. The reason? The Air Force does not allow its pilots to take a popular medication designed to prevent HIV infection. The Navy does.
Critics say the Air Force’s policy represents an overly conservative approach that borders on homophobia, since the medication is commonly used by gay, sexually active individuals. Meanwhile, Air Force leaders say they need time to rewrite older policies.
While airmen who have been denied a prescription see the move as the Air Force indicting them under the assumption they are living a promiscuous lifestyle not in keeping with service values, Air Force officials say current policy is based on safety concerns.
Jones, an E-2 Hawkeye pilot who asked that his first name not be published for privacy reasons, doesn’t have human immunodeficiency virus, but the pill — commonly known as Truvada and used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV — is banned in the Air Force for those who fly.
For Jones and others who spoke with Military.com, it’s become a choice between maintaining a safe and healthy lifestyle and fearing the worst; choosing between their well-being and their careers. It’s an impossible choice for many, and these service members hope they will not be forced to make it for long.
The Air Force may make a decision for its rated community to use PrEP this fall, officials recently told Military.com.
In the meantime, the stakes remain high. One pilot said his career was brought to an end over his use of PrEP. Others say they were shamed or subjected to intrusive questions by health care providers over their pursuit of the drug.
“I’ve weighed my options,” said Jones. “In the Navy, my prescription is already taken care of and I have that established. If I go Air Force … I’m not willing to put my safety or my health at risk if they’re ignorant to something that’s actually really beneficial for a lot of people.”