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New Rules for HIV positive people travelling to the United States
Dec 10, 2007

Hey Dr. Bob,

I heard the Bush Administration finally got around to changing the ban on HIV positive travelers wanting to come to the Unioted States. Is this too good to be true???

Toby

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Dubya strikes again! Or should that be strikes out again?!?!

The new rules for HIV-positive folks wishing to enter the U.S. are even worse than the old rules!

People with HIV have been banned from entering the U.S. since 1987, but waivers are sometimes given for short visits. Dubya promised to "streamline" the process for getting these exceptions on World AIDS Day last year! So, one year later we have Homeland Security, which had handled the waivers on a case-by-case basis in the past, drawing up new rules that can be followed by consulates. The new rules are no better than the old ones and, in some ways, make visiting the U.S. even more difficult. Dubya, in typical fashion, is also trying to ram the new rules through without the usual time for public comment and consideration.

Basically the ban remains in place. The new rules apply only for exceptions to the ban. I should point out scientists have long ago concluded the ban is unwarranted and does absolutely nothing to protect Americans' health. Only a dozen other countries bar HIV-positive visitors. They are Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan. This is not exactly a stellar list when it comes to human rights! The ban stems from stigma and ignorance. (Hence the good fit with Dubya, eh?)

Current waivers to the ban have been very difficult to get and are issued rather capriciously. Under the old rules, the possibility of transmission and the danger to public health had to be minimal and no local, state or federal government agency could incur costs from the visit. The new system makes it more difficult to enter the U.S. by requiring more documents. The old system required very few papers, but under the new "streamlined" plan, visitors must document very private information about their health to bureaucrats. As an example, the new system would require the potential visitor to carry medications they might need for the entire stay. Someone who doesn't take any medications would have to get a doctor to certify to Homeland Security that meds aren't needed. Waivers would now also require that the visit be a maximum of 30 days and that applicants prove they are aware of their condition and under medical care. Plus they would have to prove they have health insurance that is accepted in the United States! Needless to say, these requirements are unjust, illogical and stigmatizing!

The new rules do call for waivers to be granted faster, but only if applicants agree to give up certain rights and opportunities they might have had under the old system. The quicker turnaround is expected because consular offices would be able to process the applications directly and the process avoids the abyss of the Homeland Security office. Basically what HIV-positive travelers would have to give up is the opportunity to change their visa status while here in the U.S., to seek legal permanent residency, to apply for a job and, in some cases, to conduct business while in the U.S. They also would no longer be able to seek asylum.

Dubya and his cronies are once again being disingenuous by claiming to make things easier for people living with HIV, but in reality compelling them to forfeit their rights.

So, is it January 20, 2009 yet???

Dr. Bob


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