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Rule change will allow people living with HIV to become pilots

Nick Duffy January 18, 2018
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California has banned state-sponsored travel to Oklahoma over its anti-gay adoption law.

A rule change will end a ban on people living with HIV working as pilots.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority confirmed it would be making changes today, after a Glasgow man, Anthony, was last month told he could not become a pilot because he is HIV positive.

His case was personally taken up by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who sent a letter to the CAA asking about the archaic policy, which dates back to the AIDS crisis.

The body, which oversees and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the United Kingdom, said in a statement today that it would reform its policies, while pushing for change to international regulations.

(Creative Commons photo/Aero Icarus)

Under the changes, the body will stop refusing to grant any medical licenses to people with HIV.

Instead, people with HIV will be eligible to recieve a certificate that allows them to fly, but restricts them to multi-pilot operations until international change can be secured.

The body says it is the furthest it can go until the European Aviation Safety Agency reforms its rules.

Anthony, who had been offered a place on an EasyJet training course, said he was “overwhelmed, shocked, elated and humbled” by the news.

He now hopes to take up his place on the course as soon as possible.

(Creative Commons photo/Yuda Nugrahadi)

Andrew Haines, CAA Chief Executive said: “The UK Civil Aviation Authority is committed to being one of the most progressive aviation authorities in the world.

“We have often led aviation regulatory changes that have enabled pilots with medical conditions to keep flying, most recently in our ground-breaking work on insulin-treated diabetes.

“We have also been responsible for writing international guidelines on pilots living with HIV and have been promoting the need for changes to the current regulations in relation to the restrictions applicable to pilots with certain medical conditions, including HIV.

“Medical certification regulations for pilots are set at the European level, and there are a number of medical conditions that prevent a pilot from obtaining the initial Class 1 medical certificate that is required to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence.

“This is because of the degree of risk that their condition might suddenly or subtly render them incapable of safely operating an aircraft.”

(Creative Commons photo/Jason O’Halloran)

He added: “In relation to HIV, we recognise that significant progress has been made in recent years in the management of HIV infections and we support a rule change in this area, where medical evidence shows that it is safe to do so.

“We have made representations to EASA, which is the governing body responsible for medical standards, and asked them to undertake the necessary rulemaking activity and associated research without delay, that we hope will lead to a permanent change to the current regulations.

“We recognise that this research will take time and we will continue to offer our full support to this work in any way we can.

“In the meantime, the CAA will issue initial class 1 medical certificates with a restriction to multi-pilot operations to applicants wishing to become commercial pilots, subject to the applicants passing their Class 1 medical assessment.”

He added: “Ultimately, we hope the work we are currently doing will mean that people living with HIV will be able to train and work as commercial pilots without any restrictions in the future.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Nathan Sparling, Head of Policy and Campaigning at HIV Scotland, said: “We are extremely pleased that the Civil Aviation Authority has recognised that the current rules and medical evidence in relation to HIV are outdated, and that they have announced that they will issue the relevant Class 1 Medical Certificates with a restriction as a temporary measure until the European Regulations are permanently changed.

“This is a massive win for people living with HIV who want to become pilots. It is because Anthony came forward with his story that the CAA is now taking a more sensible and realistic approach.

“The decision brings the UK’s aviation policy up to date with medical evidence that recognises the important advances in treatment for HIV, whilst maintaining the same high level of safety you can expect for air travel.

Nicola Sturgeon at the M8
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (Russell Cheyne – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

“We welcome the move that provides an immediate temporary solution whilst the necessary work is completed to ensure a permanent rule change.

“HIV Scotland has been proud to work with Anthony in this campaign, and we appreciate the support of everyone who got involved.

“We look forward to continuing to work with everyone concerned to ensure that people living with HIV who want to become pilots can pursue their dreams.”

More: AIDS, Air, aircraft, airplane, flying, Gay, HIV, LGBT

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