news

US army veteran to sue the Pentagon's policies which bans soldiers serving with HIV

Sergeant Nick Harrison was denied the chance to serve as an officer because of his HIV status

2018-06-01

A US army veteran is suing the Pentagon’s policies which bans soldiers serving with HIV.

Sergeant Nick Harrison, who serves in the DC Army National Guard, revealed he was denied the chance to serve as an officer and has been threatened with possible discharge because he is living with HIV.

Harrison – who served in Afghanistan and Kuwait wars – was denied a position in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps because of the Pentagon’s current policy which considers members living with HIV “non-deployable” and refuses to let them enlist.

Campaigners have argued that the archaic policy doesn’t take into consideration that people living with HIV and taking medication cannot pass on the virus and don’t pose any risk to others.

Under a new policy, service members who are considered “non-deployable” for more than 12 consecutive months are targeted with discharge from the service.

Harrison says in his lawsuit: “After serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait, I knew I wanted to become an officer in the US Army and a leader for all of the great men and women in our armed forces.

“I spent years acquiring the training and skills to serve my country as a lawyer. This should be a no-brainer.

“It’s frustrating to be turned away by the country I have served since I was 23-years-old, especially because my HIV has no effect on my service.

“It was an honour to be chosen to join the JAG Corps for the DC National Guard, and I look forward to my first day on the job.”

Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, said: “Nick’s situation is the perfect example of just how archaic and harmful the military policies regarding people living with HIV really are.

“These oppressive restrictions are based on antiquated science that reinforces stigma and denies perfectly qualified service members the full ability to serve their country.

“The Pentagon needs to catch up with the 21st Century. Recruitment, retention, deployment and commissioning should be based on a candidate’s qualifications to serve, not unfounded fears about HIV.

“The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the largest employers in the world, and like other employers, is not allowed to discriminate against people living with HIV for no good reason.”