UK pilots with HIV will be able to work without restrictions after “marked changes” are made to aviation guidance.
New rules, produced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), set out how HIV-positive pilots in the UK can work without restrictions.
Previously, those who revealed they had HIV were automatically required to undergo cognitive tests to assess their mental abilities – a complex and expensive process.
However, the new CAA guidance, developed with the support of HIV charities, says there is a much lower risk of infected pilots suffering conditions that could impair their ability to fly safely if they have timely diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy. .
The regulator also launched a six-month amnesty to allow aviation workers with undisclosed HIV to correct their medical records without facing enforcement action.
The new guidelines and amnesty also apply to air traffic controllers.
CAA medical staff will work with those who come forward to review their health status. Your employers will not be notified.
The change was initiated by pilot and activist James Bushe, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014.
In 2017, Bushe was denied the chance to become an airline pilot because of his HIV positive status. At the time, pilots who had already qualified and contracted the virus were allowed to fly.
After starting a campaign to change the rules, the CAA amended the guidance in 2020, allowing Bushe to qualify as a pilot, and he became the first HIV-positive commercial air pilot in Europe.
A ‘first world’ for airline workers
The latest measures announced today are believed to be the world’s first for aviation workers.
CAA Chief Executive Richard Moriarty said the UK “will continue to lead the way in supporting pilots living with HIV to fly safely and pursue their careers and dreams”.
He continued: “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 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, chief executive of the charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “These landmark changes, removing the final barriers for people living with HIV to have a full career as a commercial pilot, reflect the tremendous progress we’ve made in the fight against for the last 40 years and mark the UK as a global leader in HIV aviation policy.
“Obsolete restrictions were holding back pilots living with HIV in their careers, but now the Civil Aviation Authority’s policies and practices will reflect the reality of living with HIV today.”
Green said the changes will allow pilots to share that they are living with HIV “without any negative impact on their careers.”
This sends a message to the general public that HIV has “changed” and a diagnosis “does not have to stop anyone from realizing their dreams and goals as a commercial pilot or anything else,” he added.
The latest figures from the UK Health Safety Agency show that around 107,000 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2020.