U.S. Military Defends Policy That Could Kick Out Soldiers With HIV

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration defended a new military policy that will allegedly result in HIV-positive service members being fired in violation of their constitutional rights when it takes effect Oct. 1.

The “Deploy or Get Out!” directive is intended to improve military readiness by weeding out soldiers who can’t deploy overseas for more than 12 consecutive months “for any reason.” An earlier directive from the height of the AIDS crisis prevents soldiers with HIV from deploying overseas, meaning the new policy may make it impossible for them to serve.

But the military has wide latitude in deciding who can serve, the U.S. said in filing Sept. 7 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, in seeking to dismiss a lawsuit over the policy. The complaint was filed by a 41-year-old Oklahoman whose National Guard unit was deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait before he was diagnosed with HIV in 2012. He was subsequently denied a promotion.

"The determination about whether to commission an officer is one involving an inherently military judgment about whether a service member is fit and qualified to serve in such a position," the administration said.

The lawsuit, backed by OutServe-SLDN, a network of LGBT military personnel, claims the policy is steeped in misinformation and social stigma. But the U.S. said in a filing there is a risk that the unique needs of HIV-positive soldiers could be untenable in "extremely austere and dangerous places worldwide."

"Thus, even with the significant advances in HIV treatment, the unique demands and challenges of military service have led DoD to determine that it is necessary to generally prohibit HIV positive persons from being appointed, enlisted, or inducted into the service," according to the filings.

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