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Policy & Politics

HIV Travel Ban May Be Lifted for Infected Visitors

July 22, 2009

CDC has received a high volume of public feedback on the proposal to remove HIV from the list of diseases that keep non-citizens from entering the United States. The public comment period runs through Aug. 17.

"We're trying to end the stigma and the discriminatory practice for a disease that doesn't warrant exclusion for coming into this country," said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. "HIV is clearly a public health disease of significance. But in simply allowing in someone who's HIV-positive, that individual doesn't immediately pose a risk to the public."

"There is no scientific or public health rationale for excluding people with HIV infection from the US," said Dr. Michael Saag, incoming chairperson of the HIV Medicine Association. Congress passed the ban in 1987. "Frankly, it was a bit of an embarrassment even then," Saag said.

Critics of the proposal worry about its potential cost and the risk of viral transmission by HIV-positive visitors admitted to the country. They also cite CDC's estimate of $94 million in lifetime medical costs for HIV-positive persons admitted during the first year. "The American people shouldn't be in a position where they have to pay for it," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Saag noted, however, that HIV treatment is generally cheaper and more widely available outside the United States. Given that, people would likely not be motivated to come to the United States for HIV care, he said.

For more information about the proposal, feedback, and responses, visit

Back to other news for July 2009

Adapted from:
07.17.2009; JoNel Aleccia

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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