The Trump administration has quietly begun to discharge HIV+ soldiers from the U.S. military.
Despite the fact that they qualify due to fitness assessments and medical treatment, and strong support from their commanding officers, two airmen were informed shortly before Thanksgiving that they were found “unfit for continued military service.”
They have filed suit against Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after receiving the news they were being discharged.
From The Washington Post:
Both active-duty airmen tested positive for HIV last year during Air Force screenings. After they started antiretroviral treatments, their doctors deemed them asymptomatic and physically fit to deploy, and their commanders backed their continued service. They intended to pursue lengthy Air Force careers after serving for more than half a decade in logistics and maintenance roles.
Last month, however, the two airmen received word that they had been deemed unfit for military service and would be discharged. The stated reason: The U.S. military bans personnel with HIV from deploying to the Middle East, where the majority of Air Force members are expected to go.
“Policies singling out service members living with HIV for starkly different treatment are an unfortunate vestige of a time when HIV was untreatable and invariably fatal,” the airmen argued in the complaint. “These anachronistic policies are no longer justified in light of modern medical science.”
Both airmen maintain they can head to the Middle East with no problem, so long as they take a supply of medication with them. But the ban on HIV positive service members there officially renders them unfit to deploy worldwide, placing them in a category of service members Mattis wants pushed out of the military. They weren’t offered alternative jobs, which both airmen said they would have accepted.
Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the lawsuit with partner law firm Winston & Strawnon behalf of the two HIV-positive airmen.
Lambda Legal issued a statement today, which read in part:
“It’s disgusting that the Trump Administration is sending some men and women in uniform home for the holidays without jobs simply because of their HIV status,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.
“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma. Lambda Legal is suing to stop these separations and will not stop fighting until President Trump understands that there’s not a job in the world a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, including the job of soldier.”