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UK Announces Armistice For HIV-Positive Pilots as Part of Landmark Changes

UK Announces Armistice For HIV-Positive Pilots as Part of Landmark Changes

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has unveiled a series of landmark changes to rules governing pilots who are living with HIV so that they can enjoy full and unrestricted careers. One of the measures announced on Monday was an armistice on pilots who have concealed their HIV-positive status for fear of losing their jobs.

The CAA has been working with the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and the British HIV Association since the start of the year drawing up new rules that are based on the latest scientific understanding of HIV.

“It’s incredible to see that the CAA has taken all of our concerns on board and have taken action to overcome them,” commented Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs at the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“Pilots living with HIV now have clarity on the career route open to them and have confidence that the medical system they are a part of is based on the most up-to-date evidence on HIV.”

Until 2018, people living with HIV were not allowed to become a commercial pilot because of “nonsensical” rules that were based on a very outdated understanding of HIV.

Although the rules were eventually changed to let people living with HIV obtain a Class 1 Medical certificate which is needed to become a commercial pilot, a number of conditions based on out-of-date science were attached that severely restricted the careers of HIV-positive pilots.

For example, until today, HIV-positive pilots were barred from working towards an unrestricted UK Class 1 medical certification that allows them to fly solo. Pilots were also forced to endure regular ‘harrowing’ neuro-psychometric tests at their own expense.

The new guidelines are based on pilots obtaining an early diagnosis and starting antiretroviral therapy (ART). Following diagnosis, pilots will still have their medical certificates pulled while a treatment plan is put into place and an aeromedical assessment is arranged.

Under the new guidance, however, there is a clear road map for pilots to return to the skies, including confirming that the conditions is well controlled and that regular health monitoring is in place.

“Recent medical advances mean that if someone with HIV effectively manages their condition, they should be able to live a near-normal life.  Our new guidance recognises this,” said Richard Moriarty, the CAA’s chief executive.

Moriarty said the UK was leading the way in how commercial airline pilots living with HIV were treated by regulators.

“I want to appeal personally to anyone who has previously not declared their HIV status to contact us within the next six months so we can reset this with you in total confidence,” Moriarty continued.

The six-month armistice will allow existing pilots to declare their HIV status without fear of reprisals.

Laura Waters, chair of the British HIV Association which helped the CAA draw up the new guidance said the changes were another positive step in dismantling the stigma surrounding HIV.

“Pilots should be judged on their ability to fly planes, not whether or not they are living with HIV,” Waters noted.

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