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National Guard Boots HIV-Positive Military Cadet

Photo by Art Guzman

The unnamed Vermont student filed suit against the Department of Defense and the Vermont National Guard.

Even though his viral load is undetectable because of treatment, a military cadet in Vermont has lost his scholarships and been cut from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the Vermont Army National Guard after testing positive for HIV.

The unnamed cadet from Massachusetts was attending Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., the oldest private military college in the nation. He tested positive for HIV in October 2020 during his sophomore year, according to NBC News. After officials became aware of his status, the student was dropped from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and the Vermont Army National Guard; he also lost his ROTC scholarships and health and dental insurance.

The student received paperwork saying he was "not medically qualified" to serve because of his HIV status. 

Even in 2022, when those living with HIV can keep their viral loads undetectable through a treatment regimen, the Defense Department still disqualifies anyone with HIV from enlisting or being appointed as a commissioned officer at a military academy or enrolling as an ROTC scholarship cadet. Just last month, a federal court ordered the Defense Department to end "a long-standing policy forbidding enlisted military service members from deploying in active duty outside the continental U.S. and being commissioned as officers if they have HIV," NBC News also reported.

It's not clear if the Vermont college student, known only as John Doe in his lawsuit, still attends Norwich University. He's being represented by the Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights. The DOD and the Vermont National Guard have not released a statement to the media as of press time.

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