January 4, 2010
The ban on travel or immigration to the U.S. by people living with HIV/AIDS is officially over today. It was an ugly law that had been in place since 1987 and caused countless humiliations. Most students applying for visas to study in the U.S. could not get a visa if they were HIV positive. People from overseas who had the opportunity to work in the U.S. were denied work visas if they were HIV positive. Tourists and businessmen and women were denied visas because of their HIV status.
We will never know all the distress this ban caused at U.S. consulates and borders as men and women with HIV innocently acknowledged their illness only to have their visa application rejected or be denied entry into the U.S. Every person in the U.S. applying for a green card had to be tested for HIV. Today that requirement is no longer necessary.
The announcement regarding the end of the ban was made by President Obama on Oct. 30. He said in a speech, "We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease -- yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic -- yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people [with] HIV from entering our own country."
He continued, "If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that's why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It's a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives."
This is a great step, but it took a stunningly long time to come. We have to thank groups such as Immigration Equality for working so hard to end this law. For details on the ramifications of this law, check out this helpful page.