Gay legal group calls for an end to America’s HIV travel ban

PinkNews Staff Writer August 25, 2009
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Lambda Legal, a group that pursues litigation in support of LGBT rights, has called on the US government to end a ban on people living with HIV from travelling to or taking up residence in the country.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the US Department of Health and Human Services has proposed removing HIV from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance for immigrants to the United States.

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.

In July 2008 President George W Bush signed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Act, which cleared they way for ban on HIV positive people from entering the United States to be ended.

However, the ban remains in force while the Department for Health and Human Services decide how to proceed.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal, said they had written to the CDC backing their proposal.

“Lambda Legal strongly urges the CDC to move swiftly to finalise and implement the proposed regulations, thereby ending the discriminatory and disgraceful HIV travel and immigration ban and allowing the United States to more fully assume its role as a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS,” he said.

“Adoption of these rules will ensure that people living with HIV will no longer face this type of stigma and discrimination from our government.”

Lambda said there is a “broad consensus among the scientific, medical and public health communities” that admission of individuals living with HIV into the United States does not present a threat to the public health of the United States nor pose any danger to its citizens.

British citizens with HIV who want to travel to the US must attend an interview at the American Embassy in London before they can travel legally.

A new online visa waiver system was set up recently, but those who have HIV must still have a special visa.

Currently, people with HIV are permanently excluded from the United States except in exceptional circumstances.

In April Lisa Power, head of policy at THT, told

“While we are pleased that the US government intend to revisit their entry regulations, it has not happened yet.

“People with HIV shouldn’t jump the gun by assuming it’s already okay to travel to the US without a special visa.

“Everyone entering the US is still required to state that they have no transmissible conditions, alongside not being a terrorist, a Nazi or a criminal.

“People who don’t get the special visa but then disclose their status on entry run the risk of being forcibly deported and banned from entering the US again, so please be aware of the rules before you fly.”

More: Americas

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