Judge Stops Discharge Proceedings Against HIV Positive Airmen

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge in Virginia issued an order to halt discharge proceedings against two HIV positive members of the U.S. Air Force.

In a Feb. 15 ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Judge Leonie Brinkema granted Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN’s motion for a preliminary injunction. After hearing oral arguments, the judge rejected the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss.

“This is a major victory in our fight to ensure everyone living with HIV can serve their country without discrimination,” said Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, in a news release. “These decisions should be based on science, not stigma, as today’s ruling from the bench demonstrates. Despite President Trump’s promise to improve the lives of people living with HIV at the State of the Union this month, his administration continues to defend these policies and others discriminating against people most impacted by HIV. Lambda Legal will keep fighting until these brave and qualified Airmen can serve without limitation.”

The Pentagon currently permits HIV positive service members to deploy outside the U.S. with a waiver. The Trump administration’s “Deploy or Get Out” policy directs the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot deploy abroad for more than a year and to separate them from their military service. These policies, OutServe-SLDN spokesperson Peter Perkowski said, “were based on outdated medical science and are categorically denying people living with HIV the same opportunities as their fellow service members.”

The two airmen filed their suit using aliases. Both are on antiretroviral treatment after testing positive for the virus in 2017. They were scheduled to be deployed to the Middle East. Judge Brinkema noted HIV is not easily transmitted and the Pentagon could not provide any evidence of an accidental transmission of HIV on the battlefield.

“It’s probably less complicated than sleep apnea,” she said.

Read more about the case here.


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