Last week, President Obama took a big step towards fairness by lifting the ban on travel to the US by people with HIV/AIDS. The story from HRC Backstory is copied for you below.
This ban is something Foreign Service Officers are all aware of, because we have all had to do visa work. I can't recall ever asking anyone about their HIV status for an interview, but that is not to say that someone at the border couldn't have.
Now we need to remove convictions for sodomy from Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). This is an antiquated restriction that does nothing more than restrict gay men convicted for their sexuality alone in their home countries from traveling to the U.S. And since the US Supreme Court overturned our own sodomy laws, the restriction is all the more unjust, especially as people come to the US seeking asylum from just those sorts of countries.
President Obama Takes Major Steps for People with HIV/AIDS
Today President Barack Obama took two major steps on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS by signing an extension of the Ryan White CARE Act and then by announcing a final regulation reversing our nation’s prohibition on HIV-positive people entering the country for travel or immigration.
Said HRC President Joe Solmonese:
“We thank the President for taking these tremendous steps today on behalf of people with HIV and AIDS. Today’s actions signal both to Americans and to the world that the United States is a nation that will care for those most in need at home and will no longer close the door to HIV-positive people abroad. Today, President Obama has extended one of our nation’s proudest responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and finally erased one our of most shameful.”
The ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants was adopted through regulation over twenty years ago and codified by Congress in 1993. Under that ban, HIV-positive foreign nationals were unable to enter the U.S. unless they obtained a special waiver, which was difficult to obtain and only allowed for short-term travel, and the vast majority were unable to obtain legal permanent residency. In July 2008, President Bush signed into law, as part of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a provision that removed the ban from statute and returned regulatory authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine whether HIV should remain on a list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the United States. In June of this year, HHS issued a proposed rule lifting the ban and seeking public comment.
Senator Kerry, a lead proponent of removing the discriminatory ban said:
“Today a discriminatory travel and immigration ban has gone the way of the dinosaur and we’re glad it’s finally extinct. It sure took too long to get here. We’ve now removed one more hurdle in our fight against AIDS, and it’s long overdue for people living with HIV who battle against stigma and bigotry day in and day out.”