Obama ends HIV travel and immigration ban

President Barack Obama’s administration published a rule Nov. 2 that will end the U.S. ban on HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants. The change will take effect in January.

“Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS,” Obama said, announcing the new policy Oct. 30. “We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic, yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.”

“That’s why, on Monday, my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the new year,” he said.
“Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.”

In a joint statement, the Global Network of People Living With HIV, the European AIDS Treatment Group and Germany’s Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe “congratulate[d] the United States government on fulfilling its promise and completing the legal procedure that was started by former President Bush on World AIDS Day 2007.”

“This is a great victory for the fight against the worldwide discrimination of people living with HIV,” said AIDS-Hilfe’s Peter Wiessner. “I remember times where we never thought that this would happen.
This is an emotional moment and it feels a bit like the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

EATG’s David Haerry called the change “groundbreaking” and said it sends “a strong message to other countries maintaining stigmatizing restrictions today, such as Russia, China, Australia and Canada.”

The groups’ statement said that more than 60 nations, including some in Europe, have “stigmatizing entry or residency restrictions” and that “27 countries deport people on the grounds of having an HIV infection.”

The three organizations urged the U.S. government to “erase all information with regards to the HIV status of people from its immigration databases” and to fix its “criminal justice system … where saliva of a person living with HIV is still regarded as a deadly weapon, often resulting in ridiculously long prison sentences for spitting or biting.”

By Rex Wockner


About Gay Today

Editor of Gay Today