James Bushe made history when he recently became the first HIV-positive person to qualify as a commercial pilot in Europe after battling the status quo since 2017.
Initially using the pseudonym “@PilotAnthony”, James was unable to become a pilot due to his HIV status. Pursuant to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) interpretation of rules laid out by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), he was unable to gain acceptance into a pilot training scheme. Although qualified pilots who contracted HIV could continue to fly, aspiring pilots living with HIV could not obtain the medical certificate required to start pilot training.
According to BBC News Scotland, James said, “The reason is that the CAA considered there was a risk of that HIV positive person becoming incapacitated during the flight, potentially. That rule would also have covered other conditions, like diabetes. The evidence for this was studies done in the early 90s.”
“Someone that is on successful treatment and living with HIV now, is undetectable. They can’t pass that virus on to others and they pose no risk to themselves or anyone around them. It didn’t make any sense. I wanted to challenge it”, he said firmly.
James eventually won his case against CAA when it overturned its ruling which allows people living with HIV to receive a certificate that allows them to fly but restricts them to multi-pilot operations.
The CAA issued a statement praising James for his courage to challenge the status quo and his efforts in raising awareness “of the challenges faced by aspiring pilots living with HIV”.
CEO of HIV Scotland, Nathan Sparling noted that his actions encouraged those living with HIV to never give up on their ambitions.
On 11 January, James fulfilled his childhood dream of being a pilot when he flew a commercial flight from Glasgow to Stornoway with Scottish airline, Loganair – “The joy of flying I felt when I first started to train is even bigger today, particularly in light of this victory,” he said.
Despite his victory, it took much deliberation before James decided to go public with his HIV positive status. He realised that operating under a pseudonym only perpetuated the discrimination against people living with HIV.
“It’s not just about me, it’s about anybody who is living with HIV who wants to become a pilot. I want to get the message out there that they can do, ” he told BBC News Scotland.
“My message to anyone living with HIV who is facing discrimination is to challenge it and you can win.”
James cites former rugby player Gareth Thomas as his source of inspiration to go public about his status.
“I just thought, anyone who has the platform to challenge the stigma that exists around people with HIV and has the support around them to do it, should do it.”
“I’ve got incredibly supportive friends and family. And if one person benefits from me doing this… it’s the right thing to do.”
We congratulate James Bushe for his courage in battling discrimination against people living with HIV and never giving up on his dreams!
*Featured image sourced from Loganair/PA Wire