HIV positive citizens of the U.K. who wish to train as pilots can now do so, largely thanks to one HIV positive man, 31-year old James Bushe.
This comes after having been originally barred from training because of his HIV status. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) changed its rules in the U.K., following a campaign led by the charity, HIV Scotland.
HIV and flying
Since the age of 15, all Bushe wanted to be was a pilot. But because of CAA regulations that previously barred any HIV positive, among other diseases, people to fly planes, he was unable to achieve his dream.
Pilots who contracted HIV after they were already accredited could carry on flying, but it was barred to those wishing to sign up for training.
The CAA was bound to follow the European Aviation Safety Authority's (EASA) regulations. It stated that those living with HIV had to have a Class 1 medical certificate, including an Operational Multi-crew Limitation (OML), in order to become a pilot.
However, that has now changed, thanks to Bushe pushing forward with his dream.
"My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe," said Bushe.
"Anyone who has felt restricted by the condition, who is in my situation, can now follow their dreams. The situation was not only discriminatory but utterly devastating to someone whose only wish since childhood was to become an airline pilot," he continued.
However, thanks to advancements in medical technology, today someone who is HIV positive and who is on successful treatment does not in fact pose any risks to others, let alone flying safety.
Originally, Bushe was operating under the pseudonym of "Pilot Anthony", too afraid to reveal his true identity.
Now, he said, "I’ve decided to forgo my anonymity because I believe it is important that this point is emphasized to everyone – there is no reason in the year 2020 why a person who is HIV-positive should face barriers in any profession."
Huge congrats to James Bushe @PilotAnthonyGLA for challenging @UK_CAA to become Europe's first openly HIV+ commercial pilot! @UK_CAA so far only permits him to fly with a co-pilot (in case he undetectables all over the place? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) But an overdue step out of 90s at least.— HIVreality (@HVreality) January 14, 2020
"Living with this condition doesn’t threaten my life or my health at all and I cannot pass HIV on to others. I want to put that out there to the millions of people who are living with the same fear and stigma that I was once living with," added Bushe.
In a bid to curb the stigma against those living with HIV, Bushe decided to reveal his real name.
31-year-old James Bushe from Stoke-on-Trent England, has become the first HIV positive commercial pilot in Europe, after completing his training with Loganair airline. https://t.co/MvKATKzDLm— Care For Healthy Life Initiative (@CAHLINng) January 14, 2020
Dr. Ewan Hutchison, head of medical assessment at the CAA, said "We are very pleased to see James starting his career, having now finished his commercial pilot training. He has worked hard to raise awareness of the challenges faced by aspiring pilots living with HIV."
The hope now is for the EASA to open these doors to all European airlines, and hopefully, the international flying authorities will follow suit as well.