Appeals court blocks Air Force from discharging HIV-positive service members

The court said advances in medicine mean the two service members are unlikely to transmit the virus to others. Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force

Jan. 10 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a ruling blocking the U.S. Air Force from discharging two service members who are HIV-positive.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the two unnamed men — dubbed Victor Voe and Richard Roe in the lawsuit — who argued that advances in medicine mean they’re not at risk of transmitting the virus to other service members.

The appeals court upheld the ruling of a district judge in Maryland, who said the Air Force was operating under “outdated” policies when it moved to discharge the two men based on their HIV status.

“A ban on deployment may have been justified at a time when HIV treatment was less effective at managing the virus and reducing transmission risks,” the panel said in its opinion.

“But any understanding of HIV that could justify this ban is outmoded and at odds with current science. Such obsolete understandings cannot justify a ban, even under a deferential standard of review and even according appropriate deference to the military’s professional judgments.”

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Lambda Legal, an organization that provides defense for LGBTQ communities and those living with HIV and AIDS, represented the two service members. The group hailed the victory against “bigoted ideas about HIV.”

Voe issued a statement saying he was relieved at Friday’s outcome.

“Serving in the U.S. military has been the greatest honor of my life and I’m thrilled to see this court affirm the lower court ruling in our favor. No one should be discharged or discriminated against because of HIV when it does not interfere whatsoever with our capacity to serve,” he said.

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