MEP’s campaign against US policy on HIV travellers

Tony Grew April 4, 2008
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Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has launched an online campaign to end an American policy which effectively bars HIV positive people from entering the country.

Under current US immigration law, any foreign national who tests positive for HIV is “inadmissible,” meaning he is barred from permanent residence and even short-term travel in the United States.

There are waivers available to this rule, but obtaining them has always been difficult.

The ban originates from 1987, when fear about the spread of the disease led US officials to require anyone with HIV to declare their status and apply for a special visa.

New regulations purport to speed up the waiver application process because consular officers would be empowered to make decisions on waiver applications without seeking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sign off.

However, by using this “streamlined” application process, waiver applicants would have to agree to give up the ability to apply for any change in status while in the US, including applying for legal permanent residence.

Deborah Jack of the National AIDS Trust said: “People in the UK should no longer be subjected to discriminatory laws that restrict their travel to the US based on HIV status.

“Such a law only breeds stigma and discrimination.”

Currently the EU is involved in visa negotiations with the US authorities to secure visa-free travel (visa waiver) for EU citizens from all of its 27 member states.

Baroness Ludford has called for action to use this opportunity to get genuine equality for all EU citizens including those with HIV or AIDS currently refused the right to travel freely across then Atlantic.

“The greater the number of people who support the call to end this unfair discrimination, the less the problem can be ignored by European policy-makers,” she told

“The persistence of the travel ban just feeds prejudice and ignorance.

“EU equalities laws will be meaningless if the Commission and Council fail to insist that the US treat all EU citizens fairly.

“They can only redeem their 15-year tolerance of this gross discrimination by taking a firm line in the new negotiations.”

The United States is one of 13 countries in the world, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, that bans travel for individuals who are HIV-positive.

In July 2007 the European Commission quietly approved an agreement which gives the DHS unprecedented access to the personal information of anyone on a transatlantic flight, including details of their sexual orientation.

The DHS insists on the right to use the information for disease control, and there are fears that gay passengers may be singled out as possible HIV risks.

The plans involve upgrading information which is already sent by airlines to the DHS on the 4-million-plus Britons who visit the US every year, including payment details, home address and the passengers in-flight meal choice.

The agreement adds 19 possible new categories, including information on ethnic origin, political and philosophical opinions, credit card numbers, trade union membership, sex life and details of the passengers’ health.

The information will be provided by passengers when making bookings.

The US is not required to provide this information about its citizens.

The petition can be read in full and signed up to here.

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