AIDS Activists Denounce U.S. Travel Rules
June 5, 2009
Implementation of a 2008 US policy ostensibly meant to ease international travel for persons with HIV has instead made the process more difficult, say Canadian HIV activists who had hoped to attend this week's Housing and HIV/AIDS Research Summit in Washington.
Until last summer, the United States maintained an outright ban on visitors or immigrants with HIV. It was among a dozen countries -- including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan -- to do so. However, the United States would also issue "blanket waivers" that allowed persons with HIV to attend conferences.
In anticipation of the AIDS 2008 Conference in Mexico City, President George W. Bush removed the ban. But in September of that year, the Department of Homeland Security filled that regulatory void and began requiring HIV-positive travelers to secure a 30-day visa for entry into the United States.
Officials at Bruce House, an Ottawa residential care facility for persons with HIV, said the revised process amounts to a travel ban. "It's a costly process, it's an embarrassing process, and it's a discriminatory process. That's not what HIV activists were thinking was going to be the result of lifting the ban," said Bruce House Executive Director Jay Koonstra.
Koonstra said many people did not even try to get into the United States under the new visa process. An HIV-positive traveler destined for the United States would have to meet with an official at the consulate, disclose medical details and pay about $130.
"It's tantamount to branding yourself because you are forever on the American list of being HIV-positive, and you know what Americans do with lists," Koonstra said.
David Hopper, the US counsel general in Canada, said Canadian activists rejected an attempt by his office to facilitate their entry into the country.
06.04.2009; Tim Shufelt; David Reevely