Stigma Not Science: And Then They Came For the Military With HIV


President Bone Spurs with the military. Getty Image

Amidst the bedlam and his ongoing efforts to illegally ban transgender people from serving in the military because he finds them icky, Trump has also found time to discharge two HIV-positive - super icky - but otherwise healthy, capable members of the U.S. Air Force as “unfit for continued military service," for which he is now being sued. The federal lawsuit, filed Wednesday by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN against the Defense Department and now-about-to-jump-ship James Mattis, notes that both men lost their jobs even though they promptly began treatment after diagnosis in 2017, suffer no health effects nor pose no threat of transmission thanks to a single daily pill, meet all fitness requirements, have strong support from commanding officers, and were discharged against the recommendations of military doctors.

The airmen were fired under an insidious new “deploy or get out" policy requiring all service members to be able to deploy worldwide for 12 consecutive months. Under the policy, advocates and an earlier Lambda lawsuit argue, military with other chronic, manageable conditions are routinely allowed to serve overseas while over 1,800 soldiers living with HIV are effectively being targeted and forced out. Policies singling out the HIV-positive - and based on what one soldier calls "unfounded fears and misperceptions" - are "disgusting," says Lambda's HIV Project Director: “These decisions should be based on science, not stigma. There’s not a job in the world a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, including the job of soldier.” Such policies are also an illegal violation of equal protection under the law, as well as “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion" - which pretty well sums up the reign of our current mob boss.


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