Sergeant sues over US Army’s HIV policy

Sgt. Nicholas Harrison of the D.C. Army National Guard. (Salma Mohammed and Lambda Legal via NBC OUT)

WASHINGTON — A US Army sergeant is suing the military service over a HIV policy dating back to 1991, according to NBC OUT.

From NBC OUT:

“For over 30 years, the military has placed broad restrictions on the service of people living with HIV,” says the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Military regulations prohibit the enlistment or commissioning of any individual living with HIV and place strict geographic limitations on the service of members who first test HIV positive while on active duty.”

The Pentagon adopted a strict HIV policy in 1991, when AIDS was the No. 2 killer of men aged 25 to 44 in the U.S. The policy has been revised since, but not enough, according to Scott A. Schoettes, director of the HIV Project at Lambda Legal, which filed the suit on behalf of Nicholas Harrison, a sergeant in the District of Columbia Army National Guard who was denied an officer position.

“This is an instance of discrimination that has been longstanding, and it was finally time to make clear that we weren’t going to stand for this type of discrimination by our own government,” Schoettes told NBC News.

The suit, citing a military directive, says it is Defense Department policy to “deny eligibility for military service to persons with laboratory evidence of HIV infection for appointment, enlistment, preappointment, or initial entry training for military service.”

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN filed the suit on behalf of Nicholas Harrison, a sergeant in the District of Columbia Army National Guard who was denied an officer position. Harrison, now 41, joined the military at 23 and was diagnosed positive in 2012.

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