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President Donald Trump fired two Air Force members because they are HIV+

President Donald Trump fired two Air Force members because they are HIV+

President Donald Trump

Lawyers have filed a suit against the Pentagon after two Air Force member discharged because of their HIV status.

Two men received notice a few days before Thanksgiving that they had been discharged. The Pentagon discharged them based on the armed forces rules that service members living with HIV cannot be deployed outside the US unless they have a waiver.

Lawyers for Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN and Winston & Strawn filed the action on behalf of the plaintiffs.

They’ll argue the United States Department of Defense (Pentagon) has discriminatory deployment policies.

‘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.’

Doctors for the two men – who are on antiretroviral treatments for HIV – ruled they were fit for duty. Their commanders also approved their deployment, according to the Washington Post.

‘Deploy or get out’

President Donald Trump unveiled the ‘Deploy or Get Out’ in February this year.

That policy requires the Pentagon to identify service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside the US for more than 12 consecutive months. Those service members are then forced to separate from military service. Since current U.S. military policy identifies service members living with HIV as non-deployable, they face immediate discharge under the policy.

Filed anonymously to protect the men’s privacy, the lawsuit against Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will argue their discharge violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause. They will also argue it violates federal law.

‘Anyone willing to put their life on the line to defend our country deserves respect, not discrimination,’ said Peter Perkowski, Legal & Policy director of OutServe-SLDN.

‘These Airmen are acknowledged leaders and good at their jobs. They have served honorably for many years. They have the support of their commanders and medical personnel, who state that having HIV will not affect their ability to do their jobs. There is simply no justification for this decision.’

Asymptomatic  HIV

The men were not offered alternative roles in the armed forces which they said they would have accepted.

‘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 men said in their lawsuit.

‘These anachronistic policies are no longer justified in light of modern medical science.’

A spokesperson for the Air Force told the Washington Post that it ‘does not find all airmen with asymptomatic HIV unfit’ It claimed to have returned more than 150 Airmen living with HIV back to duty.

The spokesperson said airmen who were not likely to deploy or had a low possibility for deployment can be  returned to duty. But ‘airmen in career fields with a high possibility for deployment may be found unfit.’

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