Administration Urged to End HIV Travel Ban
September 23, 2008
On July 30, President Bush reversed a 15-year-old ban on travel into the United States by people with HIV/AIDS. But before the statutory ban can effectively be ended, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must write a new rule, submit it for public comment, and finalize it. Lawmakers and advocacy groups who pushed for the measure are wondering why the process is taking so long.
"We write to encourage you to act quickly to remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance and end the HIV travel and immigration ban," Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who sponsored the measure in the Senate, wrote to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt last month.
More recently, 58 House Democrats wrote to Bush, urging him to take "swift action on this issue." Signers of the letter included California Reps. Barbara Lee, the bill's chief sponsor in the House, House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Howard Berman.
"Congress has sent a clear signal that we can't fight [HIV/AIDS] discrimination and stigma abroad until we end them at home. Congress has done its part, it's time for HHS to act," said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality.
HHS spokesperson Holly Babin said taking the required steps is "a time-consuming process and we are giving it the attention it deserves in an effort to anticipate all issues and get it right." "We're working hard to revise the regulation and it's our goal to have it completed during this administration," she added.
Worldwide, only about a dozen countries ban travel and immigration by people with HIV.
09.20.2008; Jim Abrams