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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 27, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 30
Trump wants to boot HIV+ soldiers
Section One
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Trump wants to boot HIV+ soldiers

Lawsuits challenge policy

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two separate lawsuits have been filed challenging a Trump administration policy that could allow it to dismiss HIV-positive members of the armed forces from service.

The suits, Harrison v. Mattis and Doe v. Mattis, have been filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of US armed forces personnel who stand to lose their careers and any job-related benefits if the policy is implemented.

The Department of Defense's new 'deploy or get out!' policy, which goes into effect October 1, classifies individuals living with HIV as 'nondeployable' even if they are perfectly healthy, then orders the armed forces to discharge anyone who can't be deployed for more than 12 consecutive months.

The policy also instructs the armed forces not to enlist anyone who is HIV-positive.

According to Lambda Legal, hundreds of service members who are otherwise fit for duty will be discharged from the military, suffer irrevocable harm to their careers, and lose critical health care and other benefits.

One of those service members and the named plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, 41-year-old Sgt. Nick Harrison, says soldiers living with HIV should not be denied the opportunity to serve their country.

'This case is not just about me,' he says. 'This is about every person living with HIV knowing that they can perform any job in the world, including serving in the military.'

'I look forward to the day that I can serve my country to the full extent of my abilities, based on my performance and unfettered by unfounded fears and misperceptions about HIV,' Harrison added.

In addition to losing his health care and other benefits, Harrison says the new policy blocks soldiers living with HIV from achieving officer status.

'Soldiers, sailors, fighter pilots, and marines are seeing their promising careers cut short, their dreams of service shattered, and their health jeopardized due to antiquated notions about HIV and the stigma that results,' says Scott Schoettes, counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.

It's estimated that the futures of around 1,200 service members are now on the line.

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