UK

Aviation bosses finally drop degrading, discriminatory tests for pilots with HIV

Josh Milton June 21, 2022
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A plane of the Irish low cost company Ryanair flies in front of a rainbow

Britain's aviation regulation has finally dropped guidelines that barred pilots living with HIV from flying independently. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)

British pilots living with HIV will no longer face outdated and discriminatory cognitive testing in order to work.

Previously, pilots living with HIV have been required to undergo a complex and time-consuming cognitive test to assess their mental capabilities.

But on Monday (20 June), the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) scrapped these demands in updated guidelines for HIV-positive pilots.

The regulator now accepts that living with HIV and being on antiretroviral therapy in no way impairs a pilot’s abilities.

The CAA also announced a six-month amnesty to enable pilots and air traffic controllers who have not previously disclosed that they are HIV positive to update their medical records with the CAA.

Employers will not be notified of any changes made and no enforcement will be taken against those who did not declare their HIV positive status.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said: “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. 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.”

Aviation rule shakeup ‘brings us one step closer to a world where HIV doesn’t hold us back’

The new CAA guidelines were drafted with the support of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and the British HIV Association.

The long-sought move will ensure people living with HIV can pursue a career in aviation without fear of discrimination, said advocates including THT chief executive Ian Green.

“These landmark changes, removing the final barriers to people living with HIV having a full career as a commercial pilot, reflect the huge progress we’ve made in the fight against HIV over the last 40 years and mark the UK as a global leader in HIV aviation policy,” Green added.

“Outdated restrictions were holding pilots living with HIV back in their careers, but now the Civil Aviation Authority’s policies and practices will reflect the reality of living with HIV today.”

Deborah Gold, chief executive of National AIDS Trust, added: “Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to a world where HIV stigma doesn’t hold anyone back from living the life they choose.”

In Britain, part of the application for a commercial pilot’s licence includes obtaining an aeromedical certificate declaring a person fit to fly.

To be granted one, applicants must disclose any medical conditions they have. Under the old rules, if a pilot said they had HIV, an assessment would take place to review if this in any way restricted them. This may have included an additional cognitive test.

This requirement had been set the by European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA), which the CAA had been bound to.

EASA policy states a class one medical certificate can not be granted to a HIV-positive pilot. Under the policy, they would only be eligible to receive a certificate that enables them to fly on multi-pilot flights.

This all changed when James Busche became the first-ever person living with HIV in Europe to fly a commercial aeroplane in 2020 after winning a legal fight that enabled the CAA to change its rules without relying on the EASA.

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