BootsnAll Travel Network

HIV+ tourists are still banned from U.S.

I’m getting ready for my annual trip to the convention of lesbian and gay square dancers.  This year it’s the twenty-fifth annual convention, and it’s in Cleveland [Touch a Quarter Century].  So, of course, I’m looking forward to seeing lots of friends–I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, so I’ve met lots of people over the years.  In fact, Jeremy and I met at a square dance convention–this year is our tenth anniversary.

But I’m also thinking of the people I won’t be seeing.  Not because they’re no longer alive–though there are far too many of those friends–but because they can’t get into the U.S.  Not because they’re criminals or dangerous, but because they’re HIV positive, and the U.S. government found out.

The U.S. is one of only 13 countries that completely ban incoming travel by HIV+ visitors.  [The others are: Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Sudan.  Interesting group, hmm?].  Some friends have tried bringing their HIV medications along with them, hoping their bags weren’t searched.  They guessed wrong, and now they’re permanently banned from the U.S.  Other friends have just skipped taking medications for the duration of their trip, hoping that it wouldn’t have too bad an effect on their health. 

This travel ban is the legacy of a conscious disregard of the advice of the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control at the time that this was originally discussed in Congress.  Indeed, the original version of the legislation made a distinction between AIDS and HIV; but Jesse Helms [remember him?] sponsored the “Helms amendment” that added HIV infection to the list of excludable conditions.  For people who are keeping track, the only contagious illness that the CDC recommends for exclusion is infectious tuberculosis.

The ban does include the possibility of waivers for travellers attending important events–the Olympics, the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, etc.  It was done on a case by case basis, in a fairly informal way.  It did, of course, mean that the prospective visitor was permanently on the list of people who needed waivers to visit the U.S.

Last year on World AIDS Day [December 1], the Bush administration announced that they were “streamlining” the process of granting travel waivers for HIV+ people.  But, after all the fanfare died down, it became clear that the proposed process has become more bureaucratic, more intrusive, and, ultimately, more restrictive.

By the way, the UN recommends the abolition of travel bans on HIV+ people.  [Here’s the Policy Statement.]  It looks like Congress will consider this issue at some point, but it may have to wait until after the election. 

In the mean time, there are indications that China will rescind it’s ban before we do.  Now that’s a competition that I hate losing.

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One Response to “HIV+ tourists are still banned from U.S.”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    So now we know which countries REALLY belong to the Axis of Evil. Grrrrrrr.

  2. Posted from United States United States

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