“Landmark Changes” to Allow UK Pilots With HIV to Work Unrestricted

Due to “landmark changes” made by the Civil Aviation Authority, UK pilots with HIV will now be able to work unrestricted. 

Monumental changes

New rules set out by the UK’s aviation regulator – the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – detailed exactly how HIV-positive pilots from the country can work without dated restrictions. 

The restrictions, which have been in place for decades, involved HIV-positive pilots who disclosed their medical details to undergo cognitive testing to automatically assess their mental abilities. 

New guidance from the CAA, developed with the support of HIV charities, states that there is a much lower risk of infected pilots suffering conditions that could negatively impact their ability to fly safely so long as they are diagnosed early and receive antiretroviral therapy. 

The CAA has also launched a six-month amnesty to allow pilots and other individuals that work within aviation (such as air traffic controllers) with undisclosed HIV to correct their medical records without facing enforcement action. 

The authority’s medical team will work with those employees that come forward to review their health status without notifying their employers to maintain a degree of privacy and anonymity. 

These latest measures are said to be the world-first for aviation workers across the globe, making this a landmark event for the aviation industry. 

CAA Chief Executive Richard Moriarty said that 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 recognises this.”

Pushing for change

These crucial changes allow for HIV-positive pilots and other aviation employees to work unrestricted. But it is likely that this would not have happened without pilot and campaigner James Bushe, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2014. 

In 2017, Bushe was denied the opportunity to become an airline pilot because he was HIV-positive. At this time, however, pilots who were already qualified and contracted the virus at a later date were still allowed to fly. 

James Bushe
Bushe flies for Scottish regional airline Loganair. | © Loganair

Bushe kickstarted a campaign to address this matter. In 2020, the CAA altered the guidance which allowed him to qualify as a pilot. He then became the first HIV-positive commercial air pilot in Europe. 

Bushe welcomed the announcement of the changes on social media:

Ian Green, Chief Executive of HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, commented on this landmark change in the regulations made by the CAA:

“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. Outdated 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.”

The most important takeaway from these changes is that pilots and other aviation staff that are HIV-positive can share that with their work without fearing or suffering any negative impact on their career. 

Green added that it also sends a message to the public that HIV “has changed”. A diagnosis does not “have to stop anyone from fulfilling their dreams and goals as a commercial pilot or anything else.”

What do you make of these changes? Maybe you are HIV-positive and work in aviation? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Jasmine Adjallah
Jasmine Adjallah
Jr Reporter - Aspiring to work in a journalism, PR, Communications/media role, Jasmine is using her gap year as an opportunity to learn, gain experience and grow as a person. Interested in the sports, aviation and broadcasting world. At Travel Radar she is a Jr. Reporter working with the publication over Summer 2022.


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