May 11, 2005
Dear Ms. Breuer, I am applying to grad schools this year for PhD programs in regional studies (east asia/China). Unfortunately, I have recently been diagnosed as being HIV+. While this diagnosis does not alter my determination or my expectations, it has a potentially huge impact on my future academic prospects, since I am now no longer elligible to apply for student visas for the countries that I would need to conduct research/attend courses in (Japan, Taiwan, and China). I have been in contact with some faculty members of the schools I'm applying to, and I'm considering disclosing my status to them in order to ascertain the fiesability of my matriculation into these programs. Do you think it's a good idea to disclose my status during the application process in order to assess the impact that it might have, or should I just apply, disclosing only if accepted? Thank you so much for your time and advice, AS
Response from Ms. Breuer
Excellent question. Before deciding on disclosure, please do some good Web research on the exclusion policies of the target countries for people with HIV. Many are less exclusionary than, uh, us. If you could target your research in the countries with the best policies (I'd guess Thailand), you may be realistic in your ambitions. China is probably unrealistic, given that their HIV policy is unlikely to change soon. Please don't hang your hopes on a destination that you know is not currently possible.
That's really the question. Disclosing to an academic who is not knowledgeable about HIV-related visa policies wouldn't be productive. (Don't get me wrong: I don't assume the person isn't knowledgeable, but why should s/he be, unless this problem has arisen before?) Only when you're further along in the process and have a sense of whether you and the school/program are a good fit would it be wise to disclose. And then, it's best to have done your homework first.
This site has a section on HIV and international travel, as do many good HIV sites. Also check with the statements on the US Department of State website, but that's usually sketchy, so follow the links that will give you the information about your target countries.
Good luck to you. Nancy
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