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13 janvier 2020, 11:25

HIV positive airline pilot fights back against HIV stigma

HIV positive airline pilot fights back against HIV stigma - photo 1

An HIV positive pilot in the UK has made history by becoming the first newly-qualified pilot with HIV in Europe

James Bushe, originally from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands, challenged the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in December 2017 to change its rules which prevented HIV positive people training and qualifying as pilots.

At the time the CAA refused him the medical certificate needed to gain a commercial licence, stating that European regulations prevented it granting the certificate to someone who was HIV positive.

Speaking to the BBC, James explained:

"The reason is that the CAA considered there was a risk of that HIV positive person becoming incapacitated during the flight, potentially. That rule would also have covered other conditions, like diabetes.

"The evidence for this was studies done in the early 90s.

"Someone that is on successful treatment and living with HIV now, is undetectable. They can't pass that virus on to others and they pose no risk to themselves or anyone around them.

"It didn't make any sense. I wanted to challenge it."

Eventually, due to pressure from advocacy groups like HIV Scotland and the National AIDS Trust, the CAA overturned the ruling.

James has been flying for Scottish regional airline, Loganair since November. James has now completed his training to qualify to regularly fly the airline's Embraer 145 Regional Jets from its base at Glasgow Airport - thus becoming the first newly-qualified HIV positive pilot in Europe.

This month James Bushe, who'd been using the pseundonym 'Pilot Anthony', decided to reveal his identity in a bid to tackle HIV related stigma. 

James' decision to publicly share his HIV status wasn't an easy one, but seeing high-profile sportsperson Gareth Thomas recently share his story was an inspiration for James.

"My message to anyone living with HIV who is facing discrimination is to challenge it and you can win."

"HIV should be no barrier to anybody pursuing whatever their dreams are and becoming whatever they want to be."

Auteur: Tom Hayes
Photo: James Bushe

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