A Dutch AIDS activist considered to be
the first HIV-positive person to travel to the U.S. after it ended
its travel restrictions on such people landed Thursday in New York.
On Monday, the United States ended its
22-year-old policy that banned HIV-positive people from entering the
Clemens Ruland and Hugo Bausch were
greeted at JFK airport by Immigration
Equality staff attorney Aaron C. Morris, Boris Dittrich, advocacy
director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program
at Human Rights Watch, and members of the Dutch consulate.
Ruland, 45, is HIV-positive, while his
partner, Bausch, is not. Ruland works with young people in the
criminal system. He was infected in New York by an ex-lover and
diagnosed HIV-positive in 1997. Anti-Retroviral Therapy has kept his
virus load undetectable. He returned to visit the U.S. once in 2005,
but said he feared being detained.
The Bush administration approved the
end of the travel ban in June 2008, but failed to implement the
regulatory changes to end the restrictions. President Obama called
the travel ban a “decision rooted in fear rather than fact” in
announcing the policy's January 4, 2010 end.
The Dutch AIDS service organization
SOAAIDS is behind
the visit. Ruland entered a poem into the group's essay contest to
win the couple's passage to New York City.
Paul Zantkuijl of SOAAIDS told On
Top Magazine that Ruland says he is completing two circles. A
personal circle that began in New York when he became infected and a
larger circle that excluded HIV-positive people from entering the
United States. Ruland said he was affected by the 1989 detention of
the Dutch AIDS educator Hans Paul Verhoef, who remained jailed for
four days in Minnesota when he attempted to enter the country, and
numerous other AIDS activists who've been banned from entering the
In an interview posted at the Democracy
Now website, Ruland said shortly after arriving: “I am more
than just a virus, I am a human being. And you don't have to be
afraid of people with HIV and AIDS.”