“Any understanding of HIV that could justify this ban is outmoded and at odds with current science. Such obsolete understandings cannot justify a ban.”
Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court ruling in Roe & Voe v. Esper that halted efforts by the Trump administration to discharge members of the Air Force because they are living with HIV. The decision will allow two active-duty Airmen living with HIV, identified pseudonymously as Richard Roe and Victor Voe, to continue serving in the U.S. Air Force as well as prevent the discharge of any other Airmen living with HIV.
“We’re thrilled with the court’s decision upholding the injunction that prevents the Trump-Pence administration from wrongfully discharging these Airmen living with HIV,” said Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) Legal and Policy Director Peter Perkowski. “In light of major advancements in medical treatments, there is no legitimate reason these servicemembers cannot or should not be able to continue to serve their country. It’s past time for the Department of Defense’s outdated policies to catch up with modern science.”
The court ruled that the government’s justifications “fail to account for current medical literature and expert opinion about current HIV treatment and transmission risks.” The opinion, written by Judge Wynn and joined by Judge Diaz and Judge Floyd, stated:
“A ban on deployment may have been justified at a time when HIV treatment was less effective at managing the virus and reducing transmission risks. But any understanding of HIV that could justify this ban is outmoded and at odds with current science. Such obsolete understandings cannot justify a ban, even under a deferential standard of review and even according appropriate deference to the military’s professional judgments.”
“I am extremely relieved to learn that I can continue to serve this country like any other servicemember. Serving in the U.S. military has been the greatest honor of my life and I’m thrilled to see this court affirm the lower court ruling in our favor. No one should be discharged or discriminated against because of HIV when it does not interfere whatsoever with our capacity to serve,” said plaintiff Victor Voe.
In February, the U.S. District Court