Ruling blocking Air Force from discharging HIV-positive airmen upheld by Appeals Court

Sun. January 12, 2020 7:44 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

A three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court injunction blocking the Air Force from discharging two HIV-positive service members.

The Trump administration in February 2018 introduced a new discharge policy for any service member who cannot be deployed outside the United States for more than one year. A long-standing Department of Defense rule states that HIV-positive service members can't be deployed outside the US without a waiver.

Two unidentified airmen filed their suit in December 2018.

The appeals court said that the policy was no longer justified.

"A ban on deployment may have been justified at a time when HIV treatment was less effective at managing the virus and reducing transmission risks," the judges wrote.

"But any understanding of HIV that could justify this ban is outmoded and at odds with current science. Such obsolete understandings cannot justify a ban, even under a deferential standard of review and even according appropriate deference to the military's professional judgments."

The airmen are being represented by Lambda Legal.

"At the root of these discharge decisions and other restrictions on the service of people living with HIV are completely outdated and bigoted ideas about HIV," said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. "Today's ruling clears the way for us to definitively prove at trial that a person living with HIV can perform the job of soldier or airman as well and as safely as anyone else."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine

 

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