An HIV-positive veteran is challenging the Department of Defense's policy barring HIV+ people from enlisting, deploying or commissioning as an officer.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Nick Harrison, a sergeant in the D.C. Army National Guard and a veteran of two overseas combat zones, claims he was denied a position in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps because of the current policy.

“After serving in Afghanistan and Kuwait, I knew I wanted to become an officer in the U.S. Army and a leader for all of the great men and women in our armed forces,” Harrison said in a statement. “I spent years acquiring the training and skills to serve my country as a lawyer. This should be a no-brainer. It’s frustrating to be turned away by the country I have served since I was 23 years old, especially because my HIV has no effect on my service. It was an honor to be chosen to join the JAG Corps for the DC National Guard, and I look forward to my first day on the job.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Harrison is represented by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN.

“Nick’s situation is the perfect example of just how archaic and harmful the military policies regarding people living with HIV really are,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. “These oppressive restrictions are based on antiquated science that reinforces stigma and denies perfectly qualified service members the full ability to serve their country."

"The Pentagon needs to catch up with the 21st Century. Recruitment, retention, deployment and commissioning should be based on a candidate’s qualifications to serve, not unfounded fears about HIV. The U.S. Department of Defense is one of the largest employers in the world, and like other employers, is not allowed to discriminate against people living with HIV for no good reason,” Schoettes added.

Doctor Carlos del Rio, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research, said that HIV can be managed with treatment and should not be considered a barrier to serve in the military.

“Living with HIV today is much different than it was 25 years ago,” he said. “Today, with appropriate treatment, there is no reason a person living with HIV shouldn't be able to serve in any capacity in the military.”

Lambda Legal pointed out that the policy labels people living with HIV as non-deployable, which means they could face immediate discharge under the Trump administration's recently announced “Deploy or Get Out” policy, which directs the Pentagon to discharge service members who cannot be deployed to military posts outside the United States for more than 12 consecutive months.