Military experts, medical associations and HIV advocates oppose Trump DOD’s discharge policy for HIV-positive airmen
Image by skeeze from PixabayNEW YORK — Military leaders, medical associations, public health groups, and HIV advocates joined three friend-of-the court briefs filed today in support of a federal lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s discriminatory policies, which prevent service members living with HIV from deploying to most locations outside the United States. These deployment restrictions recently resulted in decisions to discharge a number of Airmen. The briefs being filed today in Roe and Voe v Shanahan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit urge the court to uphold a preliminary injunction preventing the Air Force from discharging service members with HIV. “Given the assessment of military experts and the advances in HIV treatment, the Pentagon’s policy of refusing to deploy—and now to discharge—HIV-positive servicemembers who honorably serve our country is utterly discriminatory, outdated and unnecessary,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director and Counsel at Lambda Legal. “As the world’s largest employer with 2.5 million employees, it is outrageous that the Department of Defense has a harmful and unlawful policy that perpetrates stigma, jeopardizes public health, and dishonors servicemembers.”
In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and the Modern Military Association of America (OutServe-SLDN) represent two active duty airmen, identified anonymously as Roe and Voe, who served their country honorably for years until they were discharged in 2018 for being HIV-positive.. The briefs argue that the Pentagon’s categorical exclusion and discharge of HIV-service members is outdated, irrational and discriminatory given the strides in HIV medicine that allow people living with HIV to suppress HIV to undetectable levels, return to health, and lead full lives. The briefs further argue that the Pentagon’s policies lacks scientific support and justification, enact real world harms, and undermine broader public health—debunking erroneous claims by the government.