UK regulator changes way HIV-positive pilots and ATC are treated in the industry

James Bushe - Europe's first newly qualified HIV+ Pilot
James Bushe - Europe's first newly qualified HIV+ Pilot

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is today issuing a landmark package of measures to support pilots and air traffic controllers with an HIV diagnosis to continue in their careers.

Working with the Terence Higgins Trust, the CAA’s new guidance details how flight crew and controllers will be medically assessed to help them obtain, or continue to hold, their relevant licences.

The shift marks an acceptance by the regulator that timely diagnosis of HIV and treatment means a much lower risk of the condition affecting or impairing someone’s ability to do the job.

For pilots, it will mean that there is now a much clearer way for those living with HIV to still obtain an unrestricted (class 1) medical certificate and for controllers, it will also apply to class 3 medicals.

The CAA has also introduced a six-month period where those who currently have a diagnosis of HIV, but have not yet declared it, can come forward to the CAA in confidence to have their records amended without having to contact their employer.

Richard Moriarty, CEO 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 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.”    

Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust added: “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. Out-dated 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.

“These changes will immediately benefit pilots who can now share that they are living with HIV without any negative impact on their career. While the shift also sends a clear message to the general public that HIV has changed and a diagnosis doesn’t have to stop anyone from fulfilling their dreams and goals as a commercial pilot or anything else.”

Pilots diagnosed with HIV will still have their licence temporarily suspended whilst establishing treatment but the new guidance sets out a clear path in order for them to maintain their licence and return to work.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust, said: “We are delighted the Civil Aviation Authority has listened to our concerns and pilots can now declare their HIV status without it getting in the way of their job. HIV is now a manageable long-term health condition and people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. There is no medical reason why HIV should stand in the way of any job, including flying planes, and it’s great to see UK aviation industry policy recognising this. 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 2020, Loganair pilot James Bushe became the first new HIV positive pilot licenced by the CAA.

About Nick Harding 1949 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.

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