Working with Armed Forces

Working with Armed Forces

Among male population groups, military and police report the highest risk behaviour and number of partners. Sexually transmitted infection rates among military personnel are two to five times greater than those in civilian populations even in peacetime. These figures increase dramatically during conflict.

Young military personnel are especially vulnerable. Half of all new sexually transmitted infections occur among 15–24-year-olds, which is the most sexually active age group. HIV education programmes aimed at young uniformed personnel can help to slow the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

The interaction between uniformed services, vulnerable populations and humanitarian workers creates an environment that can fuel the rapid transmission of sexually transmitted infections. For example, personnel sent on peacekeeping missions often have the financial resources to purchase sex. And in post-conflict situations, women and girls struggling to fend for themselves and their families may resort to transactional sex to survive.

Because young recruits often have strong influence among their peers, within and outside the service, changing their perceptions and behaviour can have ripple effects in the wider population. If properly educated, these recruits can transmit clear messages to the surrounding society, especially youth, and carry the messages back to their home communities.

UNFPA in Action

The importance of HIV prevention services for uniformed forces is widely acknowledged. Currently all major peacekeeping operations have full-time AIDS advisers. Smaller missions have AIDS focal points. UNAIDS is today assisting 53 Member States with comprehensive programmes to address AIDS among uniformed services. As one of the co-sponsors of UNAIDS, UNFPA often collaborates closely with the DPKO, the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations, on comprehensive HIV prevention efforts. In Sierra Leone, for instance, the Fund coordinated the first joint programme to train peacekeepers in HIV prevention and gender awareness.

With UNFPA support, UNAIDS has developed a range of tools to support national programmes, including a comprehensive programming guide and peer education kit. An AIDS Awareness Card strategy includes three distinct cards targeting peacekeepers, uniformed personnel and UN employees with basic information on HIV prevention, and a pocket to carry a condom. The peacekeeping and uniformed services cards are available in 15 languages, covering approximately 90 per cent of the nationalities serving in peacekeeping operations worldwide.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNFPA has helped institutionalize elements of UN Security Council resolution 1325 for the armed forces and police in 14 countries. From Nicaragua to Colombia, this has meant integrating human rights, including reproductive and women's rights, sexual and reproductive health, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS compo nents into the policies, procedures, protocols, training curricula and health services of uniformed forces.

Learn More

* Training Military Personnel in El Salvador in HIV/AIDS Prevention
* Congolese Military and Police Launch New War -- Against AIDS