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Obama lifts U.S. ban on foreign HIV-positive travelers

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hiv aids travel entry banPeople with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will no longer be prohibited from visiting or immigrating to the U.S., the White House announced Friday.

An entry ban, which went into effect 22 years ago when national fears over AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) had reached a fevered pitch, prevented those with HIV from entering the country by adding the virus to a list of prohibited communicable diseases. The ban was strengthened in 1993 when it was written into immigration laws, which mandated HIV-testing for those seeking permission to immigrate here.  

President Obama noted in his announcement that the ban had been "rooted in fear rather than fact," at a time when the mechanisms of HIV’s spread were still misunderstood.

"If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama said, the Los Angeles Times reported. Due to the ban, no major conferences on AIDS have been held in the U.S. since 1990. Only a dozen or so other countries have a similar ban, The New York Times reported.

Under the ban, people with HIV could apply for a waiver to visit or move to the U.S., but complicated and lengthy processes often discouraged many, especially short-term visitors, from bothering. Waivers for immigration were available for married heterosexual couples but not for homosexual couples. Such rules often meant visiting family and friends or seeking treatment in the U.S. was impossible and discouraged others from getting tested.

"Stigma and discrimination are huge [issues] for people living with HIV," Lance Toma, executive director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The travel ban is one that is in our laws that legalizes the stigma."

Those in the AIDS research community have applauded the removal of the ban, despite its long time in coming. "The ban has been lifted based on science, reason and human rights," Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amfAR, an AIDS research organization, told The Washington Post. "Our hope is that this decision reflects a commitment to adopting more evidence-based policies when confronting the AIDS epidemic."

The changes are being published in the Federal Register today and will go into effect after a standard 60-day waiting period. The Bush Administration had begun the process of lifting the ban last year, repealing aspects of the law that had prohibited student and tourists with HIV from entering the U.S. without a waiver.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/dbking

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  1. 1. Soccerdad 4:54 pm 11/2/2009

    This in combination with Obamacare will make the U.S. a magnet for HIV positives. Taxpayers rejoice!

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  2. 2. skeptical 6:57 pm 11/2/2009

    Just what we need– tens of thousands of HIV positive people potentially infecting our population.

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  3. 3. you_morons 7:28 pm 11/2/2009

    @soccerdad: Really? US Citizens with HIV didn’t seem to flock to Canada for health care.

    @skeptical: you do know that the USA already has HIV?

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  4. 4. racpatrice 8:12 pm 11/2/2009

    I agree with you_morons….Obama has done a wonderful thing helping to alleviate a great form of discrimination against HIV positive people. So just in case "soccerdad" and "skeptical" don’t know… can’t get HIV from simply interacting with HIV positive people…..lets learn to be accepting and tolerant of each other.

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  5. 5. counterpoint 10:54 pm 11/2/2009

    American citizen’s can be held responsible for knowingly transmitting HIV to fellow citizens. Where is the accountability w/ foreigners?? Basically, you can come have the vacation of a lifetime, make a few random hookups, and leave the country without any accountability. Prove it, how? You’re gone. Doesn’t say much for stupid, careless Americans, but the idea is to prevent transmission. Can you limit HIV + travelers to responsible ones?

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  6. 6. Soccerdad 10:25 am 11/3/2009

    Hey racpatrice,

    My post did not imply that you can get HIV from interacting with HIV positives. As Sam Kinison once said – you pretty much need to make an appointment to catch it. I simply made a point that there is potential for them to be a drag on taxpayers. I’m tolerant of anything consenting adults chose to do – unless it infringes on my wallet.

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  7. 7. Spiff 1:34 pm 11/3/2009

    25 million people have died of HIV/Aids since 1981, there are 33 million carriers of HIV/AIDS in the world today…Why would any sane government WANT to encourage this self inflected murderous disease on its own population?

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  8. 8. weingibz 3:23 pm 11/3/2009

    I thought the reason for the ban was to prevent people coming here and getting free treatment for HIV at the taxpayers cost.

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  9. 9. mikehattan 5:28 pm 11/3/2009

    Unbelievable comments from ‘Soccerdad’ and ‘skeptical’. Does it all come down to money?

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  10. 10. mikehattan 5:33 pm 11/3/2009

    In addition, as taxpayers, we have condoned our governments’ killing of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, neither of which countries we should have been in in the first place. Why aren’t you concerned about the taxpayers and about your wallet in that respect?

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  11. 11. Soccerdad 9:57 am 11/4/2009

    Raising armies and national defense is a legitimate role of the federal government per the constitution. You may agree or disagree, but it is constitutional.

    Show me where it requires allowing people with infectious disease to come in or where it allows for the federal government to take over health care.

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  12. 12. Dimitris 12:53 pm 11/4/2009

    Come on, it’s not like the US have such a charitable health system that HIV patients would flock there to be treated for free. In fact, most common antiretroviral agents cost about 50% more in the US than in Europe, without taking into consideration the exuberant cost of american hospitals. In that aspect, you have nothing to fear, people looking for treatment would probably prefer going to a place where it could actually be affordable.

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  13. 13. Spiff 3:43 pm 11/4/2009

    Neither our Government, nor all the rest of the world’s Governments have killed as many Muslims as have there own religious fanatics have! They have been murdering each other since Mohammad’s days…And you shouldn’t concern yourself about the Defense Department’s spending – the Ted Kennedy Center for Swimming and other Democrat party flunkies are getting a bunch of it!

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  14. 14. Spiff 5:02 pm 11/4/2009

    Militant Muslims have killed thousands of innocent Muslims! And will continue to do so! We are simply trying to stop them there rather then here!!

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  15. 15. jpuah23 2:03 pm 12/7/2009

    There are many natural ways to rid your body of HIV. In contrast with the traditional antiviral cocktails of medicine today, which cost thousands, have severe side effects, and comes with the double edged sword delema,meaning if the virus doesn’t kill you the cocktails will, this medicine is all natural.Please visit this site for the full information about this subject……

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  16. 16. RainaMay 5:26 am 01/4/2010

    It seems a lot of people deem this a good move, but from a personal perspective as a UK citizen who studies World Development I always applauded the US for their strict immigration policies on HIV/AIDS. In the UK, nearly three-quarters of all new diagnoses are among immigrants, almost half being black Africans. There is no longer stigma attached to inter-racial coupling, so the UK are now seeing more than ever Caucasian people being infected with HIV. My point is not to discriminate against people from ethnic backgrounds or with HIV, but to protect the rest of the population from this ‘positive discrimination’ (excuse the pun ;) that seems to be the trend at the moment.

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