Policy & Politics
U.S. Law Banning HIV-Positive Foreigners From Entering Country Harming Testing Efforts, Panel Members Say
November 22, 2006
A provision of U.S. law that bans HIV-positive foreigners from entering the country is harming testing efforts and excluding eligible candidates for citizenship, according to members of a panel held by the Global Health Council on Nov. 15, CQ HealthBeat reports. Congress in 1993 enacted legislation that prevented HIV-positive foreigners from obtaining visas or citizenship. According to the U.S. Department of State, if any foreigners traveling to the U.S., including people from countries not requiring visas, reveal that they have a "communicable disease of public health significance," they are prevented from entering the country. The same rules apply to green card applicants. According to some Global Health Council panel members, the travel ban is harming public health efforts, CQ HealthBeat reports. The ban is a "violation to human rights and a threat to public health in the United States and abroad," Nancy Ordover of the Gay Men's Health Crisis said, adding that the ban discourages people from being tested and seeking treatment. According to Daniel Bruner, director of legal services at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the ban excludes people who are otherwise eligible for U.S. citizenship. An unnamed State Department official said that waivers sometimes are available to HIV-positive foreigners, adding that a "blanket waiver" sometimes is issued for people attending a conference or sporting event. In addition, the ban on HIV-positive people seeking green cards can be lifted if the person has a spouse or unmarried child who is a U.S. citizen, according to CQ HealthBeat. An unnamed organizer of the Gay Games 2006 during the panel discussion said that waivers result in a permanent mark on passports that identifies people as HIV-positive, which could expose HIV-positive people to discrimination when they return to their home countries or when traveling elsewhere. Panel members also discussed potential strategies aimed at overturning the ban. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation during the 110th Congress aimed at overturning the ban, according to a staffer. Some panel members said that it might be more effective to highlight the difference between travel and immigration and focus on expanding travel waivers (Blinkhorn, CQ HealthBeat, 11/21).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.