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Friday, March 19, 2010
Discharged for being HIV+, airman reinstated after 10 yrs
March 16 : Over 10 years after an Air Force NCO was invalided out of service after being wrongly diagnosed as an AIDS patient, the Armed Forces Tribunal has ordered that he be reinstated in the service with all consequential service and medical benefits, including full back wages along with 12 per cent interest. The petitioner, then holding the rank of corporal, was invalided out in December, 1999, after the medical authorities assessed him to be HIV-positive along with having pulmonary tuberculosis, thereby falling in the definition of AIDS. “It appears that the medical board has gone wrong in considering that the petitioner was HIV with pulmonary tuberculosis and they have wrongly boarded out the petitioner. Since the petitioner was not found to be suffering from TB, it appears that his discharge was wrongly advised by the medical board,” the tribunal observed after considering the opinion of a radiologist summoned by it. In April, 1994, the petitioner was admitted to the Command Hospital, Bangalore, because of swelling on the neck. He was referred to the Command Hospital, Pune, where he was confirmed as HIV-positive. In August, he was called for medical review and was found fit. With annual medical reviews advised, he was given two promotions till 1997. During medical review in October, 1999, Command Hospital admitted him to cardio-tuberculosis centre for chest evaluation, where he was suspected to have TB. Medical authorities recorded that it was a case of HIV infection with pulmonary tuberculosis and he fulfilled the AISD defining criteria. Stating that he was, therefore, unfit for retention in the service, the medical authorities placed him in category “E” and recommended his discharge. Subsequently, he put in a request for special medical investigation and on the basis of the reports, contended that he was not infected with TB. His discharge orders were not changed. His claim for pension was also refused. He moved the Delhi High Court, which directed the pension authorities to consider his case. The appellate committee dismissed the appeal holding that his disability was neither attributable to nor aggravated by the Air Force service. Thereafter, he filed afresh petition claiming that his diagnosis had been incorrect and merely having HIV with TB does not mean having AIDS. He contended that he did not fall in the definition of AIDS as defined by the WHO.