An HIV-positive man is preparing to take to the skies today as a pilot, after having previously been refused permission to train as one due to his condition.
The Glasgow man – who became known as “Anthony”, not his real name – is starting work with easyJet after completing the airline’s training programme.
Anthony, who previously hit the headlines after he was refused the right to train as a commercial pilot, said he wanted people to know that the virus should be "no barrier" to people achieving their ambitions.
Anthony tweeted on Tuesday: "Two years ago I was told that a HIV+ person could not become a pilot.
"Tomorrow is my first day working for a UK airline.”
Referencing the emotional revelation by former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas that he is living with HIV and had been left feeling suicidal following his diagnosis, Anthony added: “As Gareth Thomas has proven, HIV is no barrier to you being you.
“In fact it can give you the courage, strength and determination to break real barriers down."
Anthony's case first came to light in 2017 when he revealed that he had been offered a place on easyJet’s pilot training programme.
However he was unable to take it up after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) refused him the medical certificate needed to gain a commercial licence.
The CAA said it was prevented from doing so due to European aviation guidelines that prevent people with HIV, type 1 diabetes and organ transplant recipients from flying without a co-pilot.
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In January 2018, the CAA confirmed that it has reversed its decision not to grant Anthony a medical certificate for "multi-pilot operations" pending a successful class 1 medical assessment.
Alan Eagleson, centre manager at charity Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, said: "We stood in solidarity with Anthony in calling for the CAA to overturn the rules which banned him from flying.
“These were out of step with the huge progress we have made in the treatment for HIV that means people living with the virus can live normal and healthy lives.
"There was no reason someone living with HIV should not be able to fly a plane and we welcomed the rule change."
Mr Eagleson added that Anthony was a role model who was "helping to make huge strides in showing what it means to live with HIV in 2019".
Life expectancy for people diagnosed with HIV is today close to the population average due to advances in antiretroviral therapy, which reduces the ability of the virus to attack the body's immune system.
Will Nathan, spokesperson at the CAA, said: "We are pleased to see this pilot starting his career as a valued flight crew member.
“For a number of years we have promoted permanent changes to the current rules affecting pilots with certain medical conditions, including HIV, and have asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the body responsible for medical standards, to undertake the necessary work to allow this change to happen.
"We recognise that this work will take time and we will continue to provide our full support to EASA, and continue to promote routes to certification of pilots with HIV."