Just in time for the holidays, Donald Trump has discharged two U.S. Air Force service members for being HIV-positive.
The two airmen filed a lawsuit yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. They say the Pentagon’s decision to discharge them over their HIV status violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause and federal law.
Washington Post reports:
Both active-duty airmen said they tested positive for HIV last year during Air Force screenings. After they started antiretroviral treatments, their doctors deemed them asymptomatic and physically fit to deploy, and their commanders backed their continued service. They intended to pursue lengthy Air Force careers after serving for more than half a decade in logistics and maintenance roles.
To add insult to injury, the airmen were were given discharge orders just days before Christmas.
“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,” Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, says.
“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma. Lambda Legal is suing to stop these separations and will keep 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.”
Trump’s “Deploy or Get Out!” policy went into effect October 1. It orders the Pentagon to deny people living with HIV from enlisting in the Armed Forces and deems current soldiers living with HIV “non-deployable” then orders the Pentagon to discharge anyone who cannot be deployed outside of the country for longer than 12 consecutive months.
“What we’re really asking for here is that HIV be treated the same as any other medical condition in terms of evaluating whether or not you can deploy with it,” Schoettes says. “It shouldn’t be carved out and specifically categorized as ‘you are non-deployable once you have this.’”
“It’s disheartening to say the least,” one of the airmen tells Washington Post. “I know for a fact that I am very good. I know I’m good at what I do, and I’m not being afforded the opportunity to give the Air Force what I know I’m capable of doing.”