Former military cadets win lawsuit over HIV discrimination

Two former military cadets have won their lawsuit against the Department of Defense for outdated policies denying them full officer commissions over their HIV status.

Former Navy midshipman Kevin Deese and an anonymous former Air Force cadet filed the lawsuit in 2018. According to a press release from Lambda Legal, both were denied officer commissions after graduation because of their HIV status.

As a result of Monday’s settlement, both have received the long overdue officer commissions they earned. “Joining my brave co-plaintiff in this case was, for me, about demonstrating the very leadership that inspired me to a military career,” Deese said in a statement. “I follow the mantra of 2004 Naval Academy graduate Travis Manion—’If not me, then who?’

“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.”

In April 2022, a federal court declared restrictions against HIV service members unconstitutional. Later in June, the combined lawsuit Harrison v Austin and Roe v Austin prompted policy changes in the DoD peeling back many of those barriers. Now, anyone living with HIV who is “asymptomatic” and has “a clinically confirmed undetectable viral load” will not be denied commissions over their HIV status.

“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, will now be able to achieve their goals,” said Lambda Legal’s Senior Attorney, Kara Ingelhart.

“Service members living with HIV, once affected by an outdated, discriminatory policy, no longer face discharge, bans on commissioning, or bans on deployment simply because they are living with HIV.”

With another victory achieved, Lambda Legal is awaiting a ruling on Wilkins v Austin — a case that seeks to strike down bans on HIV+ service members across the US Armed Services.

Don't forget to share:

Tags: HIV
Read More in Impact
The Latest on INTO