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The military won't enlist people with HIV. A Norwich University student wants to change that

ROTC members salute during the national anthem on Veterans Day. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman
/
Associated Press
ROTC members salute during the national anthem on Veterans Day.

A Norwich University student is suing the Pentagon for refusing to let him serve in the military because he is HIV positive.

The federal lawsuit comes just weeks after a landmark decision in favor of HIV-positive people already serving. In April, a federal judge ordered the Air Force to rescind the discharge of two HIV-positive members and told the U.S. Army to consider allowing another HIV-positive applicant to join its legal division, the Judge Advocate General’s Corp.

But the latest suit raises the question of whether people with HIV have the right to join the military.

The complaint, filed Thursday, only identifies the Revere, Massachusetts man as a 20-year-old Latino, who is currently a student at Norwich University in Vermont. He planned to start his military career in the Vermont National Guard, the suit said.

Attorney Sophia Hall of Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston, which brought the lawsuit, said military officers told the student he could not serve in either National Guard or the Reserve Officers Training Corps when they learned he was HIV positive.

“There wasn’t an assessment,” Hall said. “There were no questions asked. It was just immediately, ‘Okay, you’re done.'”

The suit contends the Pentagon’s policies regarding HIV positive service members were developed in the 1980s when little was known about the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that many people who receive treatment today “can live long, healthy lives.”

A spokesperson for the Vermont National Guard said he could not comment on pending litigation. Members of the U.S. Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hall said the John Doe case is different because it would apply protections to people seeking to join the military.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2022 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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