HIV+ Airmen Protected From “Outdated” Discharge

(image via Depositphotos)

Good news. HIV-Positive Air Force members are free from the Trump Administration.

According to Stars and Stripes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled today to uphold a lower court ruling preventing the Trump Administration from discharging members of the Air Force because they are HIV-positive.

In 2018, the Department of Justice decided two active-duty Airmen living with HIV, known pseudonymously as Richard Roe and Victor Voe, could not fufil their duties of deploying frequently to the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. The two Air Force members then filed a lawsuit arguing that advances in HIV treatment meant they could continue to serve while receiving medical care.

At first, the U.S. District Court judge in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction. The judge saw the Air Force’s discharging of these members as “irrational” and “outdated.” Again, this ruling has now been backed by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They then released the following opinion, which was written by Judge Wynn and joined by Judge Diaz and Judge Floyd, stated:

“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. 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.”

Photo by Jeff Cooper on Unsplash

“I am extremely relieved to learn that I can continue to serve this country like any other servicemember. Serving in the U.S. military has been the greatest honor of my life and I’m thrilled to see this court affirm the lower court ruling in our favor. No one should be discharged or discriminated against because of HIV when it does not interfere whatsoever with our capacity to serve.” said plaintiff Victor Voe.

Lambda Legal then released a statement in praise of the court decision.

“This is the second federal court to find that the Trump administration’s attempt to discharge these individuals is unlikely to pass legal muster,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at 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the root of these discharge decisions and other restrictions on the service of people living with HIV are completely outdated and bigoted ideas about HIV. 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. We are confident Roe and Voe will succeed because the Government is unable to offer a reasonable justification for their discriminatory treatment.”

Sources: Stars And Stripes, Lambda Legal

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