The comment period on the proposed
regulatory change that would end the U.S. ban on travel and
immigration by HIV infected foreign nationals has ended.
The 45-day public comment period on the
proposal, suggested by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and
approved by the Obama administration, ended Monday with little
Lifting the HIV travel ban is an
important legislative victory for groups working on LGBT immigration
“Ending the HIV travel and
immigration ban removes a federally-sanctioned stigma and sends a
strong, clear message that the United States is working to end
discrimination against people living with HIV,” said Victoria
Neilson, legal director for Immigration
Equality, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBT immigrants.
During a June White House reception for
gay and lesbian leaders, President Obama listed the upcoming
regulation change among his gay rights accomplishments.
“In addition, my administration is
committed to rescinding the discriminatory ban on entry to the United
States based on HIV status,” Obama told a cheering East Room crowd.
“The Office of Management and Budget just concluded a review of a
proposal to repeal this entry ban, which is a first and very big step
towards ending this policy.”
While Obama might in fact be committed
to lifting the ban, using it to bolster his gay rights resume is a
bit of a stretch; Congress approved and then-President George Bush
signed the United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS,
Tuberculous and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 on July 30, 2008.
Immigration Equality worked closely
last year with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, California
Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, a
Republican, to pass the legislation.
“There is no reason for this policy
to remain on the books,” Kerry said in a statement. “I sincerely
hope we can continue to work in a bi-partisan manner with the help of
the public health, religious, LGBT and immigration groups to make
this proposed rule final as soon as possible.”
The nearly 22 year old ban has kept
“Americans, both gay and straight, separated from loved ones living
with HIV abroad,” Steve Ralls, director of communications for
Immigration Equality told On Top Magazine.
“There hasn't been a single major
HIV/AIDS or scientific conference in the United States in decades
because of the ban, either. It has undermined our commitment to
equality and tarnished our reputation as a leader in fostering
scientific and medical innovation,” Ralls added.
“This regulation is unnecessary,
ineffective and lacks any public health justification,” Joe
Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest
gay rights lobby, said in a statement. “We are confident that this
sad chapter in our nation's treatment of people with HIV and AIDS
will soon be closed.”
Immigration Equality also points out
that the ban disproportionately affects gay and lesbian couples
because their relationships are not recognized under current
immigration law, and HIV ban waivers are generally based on a U.S.
Almost 3,800 people signed on to a
letter submitted by Immigration Equality that urges the government to
issue the final regulation as soon as possible. That might happen
before the end of the year.
“For over two decades the HIV ban on
travel and immigration has been a blight on the United States,” the
letter says. “The ban has unfairly stigmatized and singled out
people with HIV and treated them differently from foreign nationals
with any other medical condition. The public health community has
long believed that the ban is anachronistic and does not prevent the
spread of HIV.”