An Army sergeant sued Wednesday to overturn the military’s policy restricting advancement for troops with HIV, saying he’s being unfairly denied a promotion.
Sgt. Nick Harrison has passed the bar exam and was selected to be a Judge Advocate General for the D.C. National Guard, but says he’s being blocked by a too-restrictive policy that allows the Army to limit duties for those with HIV.
“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,” he said.
For decades the military has prohibited enlisting anyone with HIV and puts geographical limitations on current military members that test positive for HIV while on duty.
Recently, the Trump administration has said members of the military who cannot be deployed worldwide for a full year should be removed from their service, according to Mr. Harrison’s complaint.
Mr. Harrison, who has served 18 years in the Army, including a tour in Afghanistan, and who was diagnosed with HIV in 2012, says limiting his advancement because of his diagnosis violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
He suggested the policies are outdated, contending that with medical advances a 25-year-old diagnosed with HIV — if treated early — can live to roughly the same life expectancy of a 25 year old who’s HIV-negative.
Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at Lambda Legal, which is helping with the case, said the military’s policy is “archaic and harmful.”
“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,” said Mr. Schoettes.
A spokesperson from the Department of Defense said it doesn’t comment on open litigation.
But last year a DOD spokesperson told Rolling Stone the military won’t enlist people with HIV because they need to serve “without aggravation of existing medical conditions.”
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