UK aviation authority announces landmark measures for pilots with HIV

Illustrative image: British Airways

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, with support from the Terrence Higgins Trust, the National AIDS Trust and the British HIV Association, has issued a package of measures for pilots living with HIV to help them fly and continue their careers. As part of the process, the regulator has published guidance on how pilots living with the virus will be clinically evaluated to obtain and maintain their licenses.

The new guidance confirms that with timely HIV diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy, there is a much lower risk of a pilot experiencing conditions that could impair his ability to fly aircraft safely. This is a significant milestone in the global aeromedical assessment of HIV. This means that there is now a much clearer way for pilots living with HIV to obtain unrestricted medical certification (Class 1) in the UK.

For some pilots living with HIV, it will also reduce the need for additional cognitive testing. The guidance also covers Class 3 medical certificate candidates who work or wish to work as an air traffic control officer.

In another move, the regulator also announced a six-month period during which any pilot or air traffic control officer, who in the past has not declared their HIV positive status when applying for an aeromedical certificate, can report to the Aviation Authority. Civil to correct your record without having to notify your employer.

Anyone doing so within the six-month period will not face any enforcement action for failing to pre-declare their HIV positive status and the regulator’s medical staff will work through a review of their health status following the new guidelines.

In a statement, Richard Moriarty of the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “The UK will continue to lead the way in supporting pilots living with HIV to fly safely and pursue their careers and dreams. Recent medical advances mean that if someone with HIV effectively manages their condition, they can live a near-normal life. Our new guidance recognizes this. I want to personally appeal to anyone who has not previously declared their HIV status to contact us within the next six months so that we can reset this with complete confidence.”

Ian Green, CEO of Terrence Higgins Trust commented on the importance of the new milestone saying: “These landmark changes, removing the barriers for people living with HIV to have a full career as a commercial pilot, reflect the tremendous progress we have made in the fight against HIV over the last 40 years and mark the UK as a global leader in aviation policy. Obsolete restrictions were preventing pilots living with HIV from pursuing their careers, but now the Civil Aviation Authority’s policies and practices will reflect the reality of living with HIV today.”

Affirming the importance of the measures, Deborah Gold, Executive Director of the National AIDS Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Civil Aviation Authority has heard our concerns and pilots are now able to declare their HIV status without it getting in the way of their work. HIV is now a manageable long-term health condition and people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. There is no medical reason for HIV to get in the way of any job, including flying planes, and it’s great to see UK aviation industry policy recognizing this. Today’s announcement brings us closer to a world where the stigma of HIV doesn’t stop anyone from living the life they choose.”

Finally, Laura Waters, President of the British HIV Association, highlighted that: “Pilots should be judged on their ability to fly planes, not on whether or not they are living with HIV. We will never get over the unacceptable stigma that still faces people living with HIV if bodies don’t follow the science – kudos to the Civil Aviation Authority for doing just that. Where it leads in the recognition that people with HIV can live normal lives, that other aviation organizations and other important bodies in the UK will follow!”

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