June 30, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation applauded the U.S. government for taking the final steps to repeal the more than 15-year-old policy banning HIV-positive foreign nationals from entering the United States. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removed HIV from the list of "communicable diseases of public health significance," effectively removing the last hurdle to overturning the ban.
"Action to end the HIV travel ban -- and with it the discrimination and stigmatization of people living with HIV -- is long overdue," said Foundation President and CEO Pamela W. Barnes. "As a woman living with AIDS in 1993, it would have been extremely difficult for Elizabeth Glaser to come to the United States as a foreign national, even in her role as a global advocate on HIV/AIDS."
In 1993, Congress passed legislation which added HIV to the Immigration and Nationality Act's (INA) list of "communicable disease(s) of public health significance," deeming HIV-positive persons "inadmissible" to the country. This meant that any HIV-positive person applying for a green card would be denied citizenship; additionally, those seeking a short-term visa for entry into the U.S. had to be granted a waiver or face deportation. Most recently, waivers were granted on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Homeland Security.
As part of the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in July of 2008, the statutory requirement mandating the inclusion of HIV on the INA list was removed. This did not, however, immediately change the regulations overseen by HHS, which continued to classify HIV as a communicable disease that warranted barring those infected from entering the country. Until the ban is officially repealed, the U.S. remains one of only 13 countries worldwide to restrict travelers from entering simply because they are HIV-positive.
"Official discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS is unacceptable," added Barnes. "Elizabeth Glaser would have welcomed the United States joining with the rest of the world in discarding this unnecessary and prejudicial policy."