Inhumane US Immigration Bar for HIV Positive People

May 14th, 2008

Andrew Sullivan at the Washington Post has written a terrific editorial entitled “Phobia at the Gates,” which discusses the US government’s inhumane and irrational bar to admission of individuals who are HIV positive:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/13/AR2008051302719.html?hpid=opinionsbox1.

In this article he discusses the twelve countries that curent ban H-1V positive visitors:  Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan and . . . the United States. He notes that “China recently acted to remove its ban on HIV-positive visitors because it feared embarrassment ahead of the Olympics.”

He writes, “It seems unthinkable that the country that has been the most generous in helping people with HIV should legally ban all non-Americans who are HIV-positive. But it’s true: The leading center of public and private HIV research discriminates against those with HIV.”

He notes that while TB and leprosy are not absolute bars to admissibility under US immigration law, HIV remains the only medical condition permanently designated as grounds for inadmissibility to the US.  

He notes that the ban was proposed by Sen. Jesse Helms and that “President George H.W. Bush sought to drop the ban, but in 1993, after a scare about Haitian refugees, Congress wrote it into law.”

It should be noted that there is a waiver for nonimmigrants to enter temporarily.

Mr. Sullivan notes that it would not unnecessarily burden the US financially, since “all legal immigrants and their sponsors are required to prove that they can provide their own health insurance for at least 10 years after being admitted.  Making private health insurance a condition of visiting or immigrating with HIV prevents any serious government costs, and the tax dollars that would be contributed by many of the otherwise qualified immigrants would be a net gain for the government — by some estimates, in the tens of millions of dollars.”

However, Mr. Sullivan concludes that the primary reason to remove the ban is not to avoid a financial burden but to end the discrimination and phobia against those with HIV.  He notes that there is a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Gordon Smith and Richard Lugar and Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama, to repeal the ban in an amendment to the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  Also, he notes that removing the stigma against those with HIV will allow the US to treat more individuals with HIV and make our country more secure.