A challenge to the U.S. military’s ban on the enlistment of people living with HIV has been launched.
On Nov. 10, Lambda Legal filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of three people living with HIV: Isaiah Wilkins, 23, a Black gay man and police officer from Georgia; a 32-year-old Latina trans lesbian woman who left the military in 2013 to transition and a 32-year-old straight woman from California who had been assigned to be a parachute rigger with the Army. In the lawsuit, the women are identified by pseudonyms due to fear of further discrimination, said Lambda Legal representatives.
Minority Veterans of America is also a plaintiff in the suit, which names Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth as defendants.
“The existing policy is out of step with science and unlawfully excludes people living with HIV from performing as members of the U.S. military. A positive HIV status alone has no effect on a person’s ability to safely serve,” said Kara Ingelhart, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal, in a press release. “Because HIV disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ people and people of color, this discriminatory policy is not only outdated, but is also a serious equity issue that has a significant impact on communities who already face countless systemic barriers to accessing full life in America. Striking this policy would help expand opportunities for over 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV — 42% of which are Black and 21.7% are Latinx.”
A DoD spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by SFGN, citing ongoing litigation. The new case comes shortly after Lambda Legal’s victory in April in the same court, which cleared the way for promotions and overseas deployment of HIV-positive personnel.