HRC Commemorates World AIDS Day

by HRC Staff

Calls for Repeal of Discriminatory HIV Travel and Immigration Ban

WASHINGTON-On the eve of World AIDS Day, the Human Rights Campaign called for the repeal of the discriminatory travel and immigration ban on HIV positive individuals entering the U.S. and announced its endorsement of "The HIV Non-Discrimination in Travel and Immigration Act of 2007" introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

The travel and immigration ban prohibits HIV-positive foreign nationals, students, and tourists from entering the U.S. unless they obtain a special waiver that only allows for short term travel. Current policy also prevents the vast majority of individuals with HIV from obtaining legal permanent residency.

The ban was originally enacted in 1987, and explicitly restated in 1993, despite efforts in the public health community to remove the ban when Congress reformed U.S. immigration law in the early 1990s. While immigration law currently excludes immigrants with any "communicable disease of public health significance" from settling in the U.S., only HIV is explicitly named in the statute. For all other illnesses, the Secretary of Health and Human Services retains the ability, with the medical expertise of his department, to determine which illnesses truly pose a risk to public health.

"The time is long overdue to repeal this unjust and sweeping policy that deems HIV positive individuals inadmissible to the United States," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "This law emerged out of fear and stigma, and there remains no public health rationale to treat HIV more harshly than other communicable diseases."

One year ago in his address on World AIDS Day, President Bush announced his intention to direct the Department of Homeland Security to streamline the application process for HIV-positive individuals seeking travel waivers to the U.S. The Department issued its proposed regulations last month. The Human Rights Campaign will submit comments to the Department urging a transparent, fair, and speedy process that lowers the barriers for HIV-positive individuals seeking admittance to the United States.

"While we encourage the Department of Homeland Security to do everything in its power through regulations to ameliorate the difficulties for HIV positive individuals caused by the ban, ultimately Congressional action is required to overturn this discriminatory law," added Solmonese. "We salute the leadership of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and urge Congress to enact the HIV Non-Discrimination in Travel and Immigration Act and end this draconian policy."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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