Travelling to the USA with HIV

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Default Travelling to the USA with HIV

On January 4th, 2010, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed HIV status as a factor to be considered in the granting of travel visas.

A History of the Travel Ban

In 1987, HHS – working through the Center for Disease Control’s Department of Public Health Service – added HIV to the list of exclusionary "communicable diseases of public health significance" in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Since then, HIV positive immigrants, refugees and travelers have been barred from immigrating, traveling to, or transiting through the United States, unless a discretionary waiver is granted. Furthermore, HIV positive immigrants without a green card who are already in the country have faced tremendous obstacles adjusting their status, and many have been denied access to life-saving health care as a result.

In 1991 and again in 1993, HHS attempted to remove HIV from the list of exclusionary communicable diseases, which would have eliminated the ban. At that time, organized response from conservative politicians and their base in the radical right blocked bringing immigration policy in line with scientific understanding of HIV transmission. In 1992, President Clinton made a campaign promise to lift the ban, but he was forced to renege under pressure from both sides of the aisle. Then in 1993, conservative Senators Don Nickles and Jesse Helms introduced legislation to enshrine the ban in statutory law, stripping HHS and the executive branch of the power to overturn the ban.


HIV Travel and Immigration Ban

The second prong of the American approach to containment has been to maintain strict entry controls to the country for people with HIV or AIDS. Under legislation enacted by the United States Congress in 1993, patients found importing anti-HIV medication into the country were arrested and placed on flights back to their country of origin.

Some HIV-positive travellers took to sending anti-HIV medication through the post to friends or contacts in advocacy groups in advance. This meant that the traveller would not be discovered with any medication. However, the security clampdown following the September 11 attacks in 2001 meant this was no longer an option.

The only legal alternative to this was to apply for a special visa beforehand, which entailed interview at an American Embassy, confiscation of the passport during the lengthy application process, and then, if permission were granted, a permanent attachment being made to the applicant's passport.

This process was condemned as intrusive and invasive by a number of advocacy groups, on the grounds that any time the passport was later used for travel elsewhere or for identification purposes, the holder's HIV status would become known. It was also felt that this rule was unfair because it applied even if the traveller was covered for HIV-related conditions under their own travel insurance.

In early December 2006, President George W. Bush indicated that he would issue an executive order allowing HIV-positive people to enter the United States on standard visas. It is unclear whether applicants will still have to declare their HIV status. However, as of February 2008, the ban was still in effect. In August 2007, Congressperson Barbara Lee of California introduced House Resolution 3337, the HIV Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act of 2007. This bill would allow travelers and immigrants entry to the United States without having to disclose their HIV status. As of February 2008 it is still pending.

In July 2008, then President George W. Bush signed the bill that would effectively lift the ban in statutory law. As of September 2009, the Department of Health and Human Safety still holds the ban in administrative (written regulation) law. They have said they are working towards removing this from the written regulations, but as with most laws, it needs to be drafted and then go to public commentary before it can be passed. As of now, HIV positive foreigners wishing to enter the US need to apply for a special Visa. This process (which use to take approximately 18 days) now has a expedited process in which the applicant can be granted the waiver on the same day as their interview. This Visa which follows a protocol referred to as a "Final Rule" has many stipulations, some of which include the need to have adequate medication for your trip (if applicable), adequate medical insurance as well as your trip having a 30 day limit, with no possibility of extension. While people still believe that this will identify these people as HIV positive when they travel, the US government has assured the public that the visa does not outright state anything regarding HIV status. While it is viewed by many as a step in the right direction, some activists still believe that it is far behind schedule.


The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Bill

On October 30, 2009 President Barack Obama reauthorized the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Bill which expanded care and treatment through federal funding to nearly half a million. He also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services crafted regulation that would end the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban effective in January 2010; on January 4th, 2010, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed HIV status as a factor to be considered in the granting of travel visas.

Source: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild - Boston, Massachusetts
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Travelling to the USA with HIV-president-bush-signs-ryan-white-hiv-aids-treatment-modernization-act-2006.jpg   Travelling to the USA with HIV-president-obama-signs-ryan-white-hiv-aids-treatment-extension-act-2009.jpg  


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Created by sandra, Oct 6th, 2008 at 12:27 PM
Last edited by forum_admin, Sep 8th, 2010 at 02:24 PM
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 07:12 AM   #2
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Default Re: Travelling to the USA with HIV

This information while accurate at time of publication is now totally inaccurate as a result of recent changes made to legislation by president bush and president obama.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: Travelling to the USA with HIV

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This information while accurate at time of publication is now totally inaccurate as a result of recent changes made to legislation by president bush and president obama.
Thank you for your comments... We updated the information in the article above.
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 09:25 PM   #4
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Default Re: Travelling to the USA with HIV

Thanks for updating the article so promptly. Have any changes taken place towards issue of visas for non immigrant visas to allow people to work if they are being transferred by their company?
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 06:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: Travelling to the USA with HIV

HIV infection is no longer a ground of inadmissibility to the U.S. It is no longer considered a communicable disease of public health significance for immigration purposes.
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