HIV-Positive Military Men Denied Promotion, Win 5-Year Legal Battle

Since the beginning of the HIV pandemic during the 1980s, the disease has always been associated with the queer community. It has become a frequent form of discrimination through many facets of life, and the military is no exception.

A Groundbreaking Case

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This discrimination can best be seen in the recent court case that was settled on Monday. Navy midshipman Kevin Deese and one anonymous former Air Force cadet filed a lawsuit back in 2018. 

Rejection of Status

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The lawsuit, which was filed against the Department of Defense, had been brought on by both officers being denied commissions upon graduation. While their fellow service members were accepted, both men were rejected due to their HIV status.

Lambda Assists With Victory

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Both men were represented by Lambda Legal, who assisted them in pursuing legal action for over 5 years. While it has taken copious amounts of time and energy, their fight paid off, with the ruling of the case being in their favor.

Moving on Up

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Senior Attorney Kara Ingelhart stated, “We are gratified that our clients, who were denied officer commissions they had earned because of the U.S. military’s discriminatory policy of withholding career advancement opportunities from HIV-positive service members,”.

A Foot in the Door

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Attorney Ingelhart goes on to mention that the ruling serves as a proper step forward, and can be used to bolster other cases of discrimination that might occur under the Department of Defense.

A Trial Long Overdue

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She continued, “Service members living with HIV, once affected by an outdated, discriminatory policy, no longer face discharge, bans on commissioning, or bans on deployment simply because they are living with HIV.”

Protect and Serve

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The armed forces of the US have long been an unwelcoming place for queer individuals. Even when a passion to serve their country is demonstrated, Uncle Sam shows more prejudice than gratitude.

Repeated Behavior

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Previous unjust practices across military branches all point to a previous protocol known as “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” This required all LGBTQ+ members of active duty to remain in the closet, never to disclose their sexual orientation.

Time to Represent

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While many see benefits in a practice such as this, it misses the point of allowing diversity within the ranks. Representation within the military could inspire others to sign up, seeing people who look like themselves.

20 Years of Silence

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“Don’t ask, dont tell” was issued at the tail-end of December 1993 and wasn’t repealed until nearly 20 years later. The initial motivations behind the policy’s approval was to ensure that heterosexual personnel were comfortable while serving.

Limiting Opportunities

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The Department of Defense, up until now, disqualified all individuals diagnosed with the retroviral disease, claiming it would limit capabilities necessary during enrollment.

What Does Science Say

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This, however, is not backed by research. As long as those living with HIV have steady access to antiretroviral treatment (ART), then they can go on to live happy and healthy lives.

Financial Trade Off

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HIV activists suspect that the ban of HIV+ people from joining is because it would place personnel on the Department of Defense’s healthcare services. Essentially, the cost for ART would fall on the government’s dime.

Truvada’s Financial Toll

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As of today, the estimated monthly cost for Truvada (the most popular name brand ART) is $1,700. While pricey for everyday workers, this amount would mean nothing to the Defense Department.

A Wallet Worth Fighting For

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The Department of Defense consistently boasts one of the highest budgets by department. In 2024, 1.60 trillion dollars was allocated from budgetary resources. This makes it the third highest spender, right behind the Treasury Department and HHS.

Able to Serve

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After the ground-breaking decision on Monday, HIV-positive service members will not be enlisted on the basis of status. As long as their viral load is undetectable and they remain asymptomatic, they can still serve their country.

A Proud Milestone

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When interviewed after the ruling, Kevin Deese said “Now, ten years after my Naval Academy graduation, future midshipmen and cadets living with HIV will be able to commission with their classmates upon graduation. And I could not be more proud to finally be commissioning.”

National Appeal

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Cases like this shift the civil rights landscape, giving more ground for those living with HIV to be treated with dignity and respect. Now, the rest of the country needs to catch up.

The post HIV Positive Military Men Denied Promotion, Win 5-Year Legal Battle first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

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