(Photo Credits: Screengrab from STV News’s YouTube Account)

An HIV-positive man named James Bushe who hails from Stoke-on-Trent has recently completed his 18-month pilot training and is now a pilot for the Scottish airline Loganair. 

This makes him the first HIV-positive man to become a commercial airline pilot and fly a commercial flight.

But Bushe’s journey to success was not without challenges. Way back in 2017, he was unable to take up an offer to train as a commercial pilot through EasyJet’s training programme because of his HIV status. According to The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has a regulation stating that “pilots with certain medical conditions – including being HIV positive, organ transplantation or having type 1 diabetes – are only allowed to fly with a co-pilot.” At the time, only qualified pilots who developed HIV are allowed by CAA to continue to fly, “subject to medical fitness,” BBC News reports. 

Bushe, 31, whose dreams as a child was to become a pilot thus he began flying when he was only 15—had decided to challenge CAA to change its rules last December 2017 by writing to them. Though he was initially denied, a campaign led by the charity HIV Scotland, says Metro, had changed that and last year, CAA has, after reviewing their rules, reversed their decision and granted Bushe the medical certificate he needed in order to start his pilot training. 

Now, Bushe has a new mission, and it’s to encourage others with the same condition to “follow their dreams.” He told his story and had chosen to reveal his identity to fight the stigma surrounding HIV. He said, “Today, someone who is HIV-positive and on successful treatment poses no risk to flight safety and should be treated no differently to a person who is not living with the condition.”

He added:

I’ve decided to forgo my anonymity because I believe it is important that this point is emphasized to everyone – there is no reason in the year 2020 why a person who is HIV-positive should face barriers in any profession. Living with this condition doesn’t threaten my life or my health at all and I cannot pass HIV on to others. I want to put that out there to the millions of people who are living with the same fear and stigma that I was once living with.

But Bushe says this is not just about him but rather it’s “about anyone living with HIV who can now become a pilot.” Lastly, he added, “My hope now is that it triggers action not just in the UK but in the rest of Europe.”

Bushe was diagnosed with HIV in 2015. He received his private pilot license at 17, even before he learned how to drive. Read his story in full here and here.

You can follow Bushe on twitter at @PilotAnthonyGLA and Adam4Adam at @adam4adam for more stories.