Important Provision to Repeal Discriminatory HIV Travel and Immigration Ban Attached to Senate Bill

by HRC Staff •

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, praised Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) today for successfully securing a provision to repeal our nation's discriminatory travel and immigration ban on HIV positive individuals in the Senate's legislation to reauthorize PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The underlying legislation, authored by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), is expected to be considered by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations this week.

"The time is long overdue to repeal this unjust and sweeping policy that deems HIV positive individuals inadmissible to the United States," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "This law emerged out of fear and stigma, and there remains no public health rationale for treating HIV more harshly than other communicable diseases. We salute the leadership of Senators Kerry and Smith and urge Congress to end this draconian policy."

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The ban was originally enacted in 1987, and explicitly restated in 1993, despite efforts in the public health community to remove the ban when Congress reformed U.S. immigration law in the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 entering 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.

Senators Kerry and Smith introduced legislation, the HIV Non-Discrimination in Travel and Immigration Act (S. 2486), in December 2007 to repeal the ban. Representative Barbara Lee introduced the legislation in August 2007 in the House of Representatives (H.R. 3337).

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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