HIV-positive Israelis will be conscripted into the military for the first time, the army said today, a move welcomed by gay rights groups as an important step against discrimination.
While Israeli Jews are required to do military service, people with HIV have long been exempt on medical grounds.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) confirmed this policy would be scrapped in the coming months.
However, HIV-positive soldiers will not serve in combat roles but in administrative and other positions.
Colonel Moshe Pinkert, head of the IDF’s medical services department, said new treatments meant the risk of HIV-positive citizens passing the disease on was limited.
“Medical advancement in the past few years has made it possible for them to serve in the army without risking themselves or their surroundings,” he said in a statement on the army’s blog.
The announcement, made to coincide with World Aids Day on December 1, was hailed by gay rights groups.
“This process is a significant step towards shattering stereotypes about people with HIV,” Yuval Livnat, CEO of the Israel Aids Task Force, said in a statement.
Israel’s government has long trumpeted its military’s gay-friendly stance.
The army was among the first around the globe to provide benefits to the partners of deceased gay soldiers.
In 2012, a photo shared by the IDF showing two soldiers holding hands went viral in Israel, sparking debate between conservatives and liberals.
A pro-Palestinian gay campaign group, Pinkwatching Israel, has accused the IDF of seeking to use its stance to divert attention away from alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinians, describing it as “pinkwashing”.