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Military student sues the army over its HIV policy

BOSTON (Transatlantic Today) — In a complaint filed on Thursday, a military college student claimed that armed forces officials ruled him unsuitable for service after he tested HIV positive. 

According to ABC NEWS, the 20-year-old student from Revere, Massachusetts, alleged in his case against federal and state military authorities that he tested HIV positive in October 2020 in his sophomore year at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. 

Despite being asymptomatic, healthy, and on a treatment plan that makes his viral load untraceable, the student was presumed unsuitable for service and dropped from the Vermont Army National Guard and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, according to the suit filed in Burlington, Vermont. 

According to his complaint, he was told he wouldn’t be able to earn a scholarship via the ROTC or be eligible for other military advantages like dental and medical care or a state tuition waiver. 

Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-based organization that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the student, obtained redacted versions of the student’s discharge records, which reveal he was sacked from the guard in January because of being “not medically qualified.” 

Vermont National Guard and United States Defense Department, who are both implicated in the lawsuit, have declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation. 

HIV is one of a long list of health disorders that immediately disqualifies an individual from joining, getting assigned as a commissioned officer, or enlisting as an ROTC scholarship cadet, according to Defense Department guidelines. 

The student’s attorneys contend that the military’s HIV rules date back to the 1980s, when limited information was available about the disease, which may lead to AIDS if left untreated.

Last month, a federal court in Virginia ruled that HIV-positive military personnel cannot be prohibited or dismissed from becoming officers solely because they have the infection. 

The student’s lawsuit is irrelevant, according to Sophia Hall, deputy legal director at Lawyers for Civil Rights, because the Virginia verdict only extended to people already serving in the military. 

In a statement released by his attorneys, the student stated that he wishes to regain his military status so that he can walk in the shoes of his uncles and grandfathers who served in the military. In addition, the lawsuit requests the court to declare the rules and military guidelines that led to his discharge from the ROTC and the National Guard invalid.

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