Back HIV Policy & Advocacy DHHS Issues Proposed Regulations to Remove Ban on HIV Positive Visitors and Immigrants

DHHS Issues Proposed Regulations to Remove Ban on HIV Positive Visitors and Immigrants

The federal government this week issued proposed regulations that would remove current restrictions on HIV positive visitors or immigrants to the U.S. The long awaited policy change is now open for public comment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) this week laid out the changes it plans to make that will allow foreign nationals with HIV to visit the U.S. without the current disclosure and paperwork requirements of a special waiver, and will no longer automatically bar HIV positive immigrants.

"This rule, which only contributes to promoting stigma about HIV, was long overdue to be removed," stated Frank Oldham, executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA). "I strongly applaud the Obama Administration for taking this action. We have waited a long time to see this discriminatory and unjust rule be eliminated."

Last year's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reauthorization overturned a statutory ban and returned to DHHS the authority to determine whether to keep HIV on a list of "communicable diseases of public health significance" used to exclude foreign nationals from entering the country. The Department of Homeland Security eased visitor procedures last October, but it was up to DHHS to make the change official.

On June 26 the Office of Management and Budget announced that it had completed its review of the proposed changes and DHHS could move forward with revising the regulations. The proposed changes were published in the Federal Register on July 2. A 45-day public comment is now underway. After the comment periods, consultations, and revisions, the ban may be fully removed by the end of the year.

The proposed rule states, "While HIV infection is a serious health condition, it does not represent a communicable disease that is a significant threat for introduction, transmission, and spread to the U.S. population through casual contact. An arriving alien with HIV infection does not pose a public health risk to the general population through casual contact. As a result of these proposed regulatory changes, aliens would no longer be inadmissible into the United States based solely on the grounds they are infected with HIV."

The policy change was widely hailed by advocates, who in recent months have expressed disappointment about the Obama administration's slow pace of change regarding gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender issues.

"We are one important step closer to finally ending this discriminatory ban once and for all," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This regulation is unnecessary, ineffective, and lacks any public health justification. We are confident that this sad chapter in our nation's treatment of people with HIV and AIDS will soon be closed."

The International AIDS Society recently announced that it was considering holding its 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, if the ban is lifted. The conference has not been held in the U.S. since the restrictions were implemented in the early 1990s.

"Today we are one step closer to ending a discriminatory practice that stigmatizes those living with HIV, squanders our moral authority, and sets us back in the fight against AIDS," said Senator John Kerry, a supporter of the policy change. "By proposing this rule, the Obama administration has made a powerful statement in favor of overturning the HIV travel and immigration ban that has no foundation in public health or common sense. There is no reason for this policy to remain on the books."

7/3/09

Sources

Human Rights Campaign. Administration Moves Forward on Regulation Ending HIV Travel and Immigration Ban. Press release. June 26, 2009.

Immigration Equality. Proposed Regulations Would Lift U.S. HIV Travel Ban. Press release. June 29, 2009.

National Association of People with AIDS. The National Association of People with AIDS Applauds the Administration's Proposal to Eliminate the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban. Press release. June 26, 2009.