The “final barriers” to people with HIV having full careers as commercial pilots have been lifted.
New guidance has been produced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) setting out how HIV-positive pilots in the UK can work without restrictions.
The regulator told the PA news agency it has also launched a six-month amnesty for pilots with the virus who did not declare their status when applying for a medical certificate enabling them to work.
The measures are believed to be a world-first for aviation workers.
Pilots who disclosed they had HIV previously were automatically required to undergo cognitive testing to assess their mental abilities, which is an expensive and complex process.
Outdated restrictions were holding pilots living with HIV back
Ian Green, Terrence Higgins Trust
The CAA’s new guidance, developed with the support of HIV charities, says that there is a much lower risk of an infected pilot suffering conditions that could impair their ability to safely fly an aircraft if they have a timely diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy.
The new directions and amnesty also applies to air traffic controllers.
Latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency show an estimated 107,000 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2020.
During the amnesty period, aviation workers with undisclosed HIV will be able to correct their medical record without facing enforcement action.
The CAA’s medical team will work with those who come forward to review their health status. Employers will not be notified.
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said the UK will “continue to lead the way in supporting pilots living with HIV to fly safely and pursue their careers and dreams”.
He went on: “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 HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “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“Outdated restrictions were holding pilots living with HIV back in their careers, but now the Civil Aviation Authority’s policies and practices will reflect the reality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.”
Mr Green said the changes will allow pilots to share that they are living with HIV “without any negative impact on their career”.
This sends a 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”, he added.