Skip to comments.HIV travel restriction set to be lifted
Posted on 07/09/2009 3:12:54 PM PDT by SwinneySwitch
A rule that prevents many HIV-positive immigrants and travelers from entering the United States will likely be lifted before the year is up, after the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month recommended changing the regulation.
Immigration and HIV/AIDS advocacy groups have been working to repeal the 22-year-old rule, which they call discriminatory, dangerous, and debilitating to the strength of the U.S. scientific community.
A large number of foreigners with the human immunodeficiency virus would benefit from the change, the groups say, when these individuals would finally be able to enter the country to see loved ones, attend medical conferences, or seek advanced medical treatment.
"The GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) has been working to repeal the ban for over two decades," said Nathan Schaefer, the director of public policy for the HIV/AIDS advocacy group, the Gay Men's Health Crisis, in New York. Schaefer says that no major international HIV/AIDS conferences have been able to take place in this country because of the travel ban. "It has a negative human rights and public health impact and it has been an outdated and discriminatory policy."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a division of HHS, is currently holding a 45-day public comment period on the decision. After that period ends, the CDC will review comments made and come to a final decision on the regulation.
The recommended regulation change was not unexpected. Congress repealed the HIV travel ban last July, but the change has gone through a number of bureaucratic processes before making it to the CDC, according to Schaefer.
Currently, those attempting to immigrate into the U.S. have to be tested for HIV, along with a number of other communicable diseases, such as active tuberculosis and syphilis. Those who are HIV positive and are traveling to the U.S. for less than 30 days must sign a waiver checklist, which stipulates specific conditions they must comply with to enter the country.
Items on the checklist include confirming that the individual has medical insurance and therefore won't incur costs to the United States as a result of his or her condition; that the individual has sufficient medication for the duration of his or her trip; and that the individual is not symptomatic of a contagious AIDS-related condition.
According to Victoria Neilson, the legal director of Immigration Equality in New York, some travelers can enter the country and not report that they have HIV, because they don't realize that it's considered a "communicable disease of public health significance," as defined by the U.S. Department of State.
Yet, she has seen many cases of individuals who are profiled as homosexual, and are then stopped and questioned as to whether or not they are HIV positive, a practice that she says is discriminatory.
"One of the things we always thought made the ban (regulation affecting) short-term travel kind of ridiculous is it's sort of over inclusive and under inclusive at the same time," said Neilson. "(It) continues to prevent entry by many people who pose no real public health threat, while simultaneously allowing many travelers with HIV to enter without ever disclosing their status and thus not being subjected to the waiver criteria at all."
The waiver for HIV positive individuals attempting to move to the United States has been considerably more difficult to obtain than the travel waiver.
"If you are HIV positive, you can't even apply for a waiver unless you have a relative who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder," Neilson said. Even for those who do meet this requirement, the application process can be a lengthy and time consuming, and there is no guarantee the waiver will be granted. These individuals must also have private medical insurance that will cover them in the United States, something Neilson says is very difficult to obtain before entering the country.
HIV-positive residents of Matamoros who wish to apply for a U.S. Department of State Border Crossing Card, or Mexican citizens who hold a card that certifies them to enter the U.S. for up to 30 days, are treated as travelers, according to State Department press representative Andrew Laine. They do not have to take a medical exam, but do have to answer this question:
"Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug abuser or addict?"
The CDC states that HIV/AIDS is now much better understood than it was in 1987, and that since it is now known that the disease can't be easily passed from one person to another, it makes sense to take it off the list.
But here in the Rio Grande Valley, Valley AIDS Council Executive Director Bob Smith says he is still worried that local residents don't understand how AIDS is spread.
"We watch our Web site, and you know what the most commonly searched string is?" Smith said. "Facts (about HIV/AIDS). People say to me, You've worked there for so many years, how can you not have HIV?' And I tell them because I didn't do anything that would make me get it.' "
Smith travels twice a year to Kenya and pays for the expenses out of his own pocket, where he assists AIDS prevention and treatment groups to work more effectively. After seeing the abject poverty in Kenya, where AIDS is common, Smith says the regulation change brings him little hope.
"A lot of Kenyans we know make a dollar a day," Smith said. He doesn't believe many Kenyans would be able to afford to travel to the United States, whether the HIV ban is lifted or not. "The economic downturn for us means I can't afford Starbucks, anymore. For them, they can't afford to eat."
But Steve Ralls of Immigration Equality says the change will still mean a lot to many.
"Certainly economic issues are always a factor when you consider immigration in traveling abroad," Ralls said. "But repealing this ban allows those who can immigrate to do so. It's a step in the right direction."
I think we’ve arrived there already.
Free health care for illegal HIV immigrants? Or will Obama pay to bring them all over here and make it legal?
The system is already busted.
Oh brother, apparently not fast enough for Obummer’s liking.
I guess quarantining immigrants carrying typhus was discriminatory too.
. . . at the cost of US taxpayers. I guess we (Americans) are the world, responsible for every other human being on this planet.
More insanity courtesy of the democrats.
The score in the first quarter: Perverts 49 Straights 0.
Immigration and HIV/AIDS advocacy groups have been working to repeal the 22-year-old rule, which they call discriminatory, dangerous, and debilitating to the strength of the U.S. scientific community
What about caring about the risk of “dangerous, and debilitating to the strength of the U.S. (regular) community” ??????
Why don’t they just pass a law that says sexually-disoriented perverts won’t get AIDS?
They can convert sodomy from evil into good by a stroke of their legislative pen. With a word they can decree that two sick shacked-up sodomites are now a married couple. Clearly their authority is superior to all others and inferior to none, as demonstrated by their repeal of the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God.
So why haven’t they decreed that AIDS will no longer be contracted by vile and shameful acts of the depraved? After all, it’s just another part of the same natural law that they claim is subject to their veto, right?
Sounds like discrimination to me.
In a somewhat related story
Five died from swine flu in Hidalgo County(Texas)in June
Yeah, sounds like a really "scientific" organization that would know about these thing. /sarc
AIDS - the first disease with civil rights.