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We found no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines caused a 500% increase in HIV infections among U.S. military personnel.
COVID-19 vaccines became widely available to adults in 2021. The rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among service members did not change from 2017 to 2021, according to the Congressional Research Service.
There is no association between COVID-19 vaccines and a person’s risk for HIV infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PolitiFact has repeatedly debunked claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause HIV or AIDS.
During their service, U.S. military members might face a number of threats — but a heightened risk of HIV infection caused by COVID-19 vaccines isn’t one of them.
"BREAKING: U.S. military is now testing soldiers for AIDS, after DOD database reports 500% increase in HIV since the COVID vaccine rollout," read a screenshot of a tweet that was shared to Instagram May 17.
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) We were unable to find the original tweet; it’s possible it was deleted.
(Screenshot from Instagram.)
We found no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines caused a 500% increase in HIV infections among U.S. military personnel.
COVID-19 vaccines became widely available to adults in the U.S. in 2021. KFF, a nonprofit health policy organization, found that 73% of U.S. adults surveyed said they had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of November 2021. By December 2021, the U.S. Army, for example, reported that 96% — or more than 461,000 — of its active-duty service members were vaccinated against COVID-19.
But the rising COVID-19 vaccination rate did not correspond with a sharp increase in the number of HIV infections diagnosed among service members.
The rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among service members did not change from 2017 to 2021, according to Congressional Research Service reports.
A 2019 Congressional Research Service report on HIV and AIDS in the military said that the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among service members tested in 2017 was 23 per 100,000. It also estimated that 350 service members are diagnosed with HIV each year.
A March 2023 update to that report found that the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections among service members tested in 2021 remained at 23 per 100,000.
Compared with 2020, there were 72 more HIV infections diagnosed in 2021, representing a 30% increase. That’s not close to a 500% increase, which would have required the Defense Department to diagnose 1,422 HIV infections.
As the vaccine rollout continued in 2022, there was a 60% decrease in the number of HIV infections compared with 2021.
If left untreated, an HIV infection can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
Despite persistent claims to the contrary, there is no evidence to support claims that COVID-19 vaccines can cause HIV infections or AIDS. There is no association between COVID-19 vaccines and a person’s risk for HIV infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PolitiFact reached out to the Defense Department and did not hear back.
An Instagram post claimed the U.S. military ramped up its AIDS testing following Defense Department reports of a "500% increase in HIV since the COVID vaccine rollout."
Defense Department data shows 72 more service members were diagnosed with HIV infections in 2021 compared to 2020, but that represents about a 30% increase rather than a 500% increase. In 2022, the number of service members diagnosed with HIV infections decreased.
We rate these claims False.
Instagram post, May 17, 2023
Lead Stories, Fact Check: COVID Shots Do NOT Cause 'Vaccine-Induced AIDS,' Did Not Cause 500% Increase In HIV In US Military, March 3, 2023
USA Today, Fact check: Posts lie about US military HIV rates, falsely link virus with COVID-19 vaccine, March 16, 2023
Congressional Research Service, HIV/AIDS in the Military, May 31, 2019
Congressional Research Service, HIV/AIDS in the Military, March 21, 2023
PolitiFact, Still no connection between COVID-19 vaccines and AIDS, May 16, 2022
The Associated Press, No, the military hasn’t recorded a 500% increase in HIV cases, March 8, 2023
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV and COVID-19 Basics, accessed May 19, 2023
PolitiFact, Claim that COVID-19 vaccinated in UK are developing immunity problems is false, Nov. 8, 2021
PolitiFact, No, the COVID-19 vaccines do not cause AIDS, Dec. 15, 2021
PolitiFact, COVID-19 vaccines do not contain HIV, Feb. 14, 2022
The Associated Press, States will start getting COVID-19 vaccine Monday, US says, Dec. 14, 2020
KFF, KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: November 2021, Dec. 2, 2021
U.S. Army, Active Army achieves 98 percent vaccination rate with less than one percent refusal rate, Dec. 16, 2021
KFF, COVID-19 preventable mortality, April 21, 2022
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