Administration Moves Forward on Regulation Ending HIV Travel and Immigration Ban

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, responded today to the Office of Management and Budget indicating that they have completed review of a proposed regulation which would remove the remaining barrier to HIV-positive visitors and immigrants. The proposal, which OMB indicates would remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the United States, will now be published in the Federal Register and open for a period of public comment. After reviewing those comments, the Department of Health and Human Services will issue a final regulation.

“We are one important step closer to finally ending this discriminatory ban once and for all,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “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.”

In July 2008, President Bush signed into law, as part of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a provision that removed the ban from statute and returned regulatory authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine whether HIV should remain on a list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the United States.

HRC has been a lead organization lobbying on Capitol Hill for the statutory repeal and working to ensure that Department of Health and Human Services’ regulations were changed. The Human Rights Campaign worked closely with the offices of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and former Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), as well as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the sponsors of the effort in Congress last year to repeal the ban. Since passage of the PEPFAR bill, HRC has lobbied both the Bush and Obama administrations to remove the remaining regulatory ban.

The current travel and immigration ban prohibits HIV-positive foreign nationals from entering the U.S. unless they obtain a special waiver, which is difficult to obtain and can only allow for short-term travel. Current policy also prevents the vast majority of foreign nationals with HIV from obtaining legal permanent residency in the United States. The ban originated in 1987, and was explicitly codified by Congress in 1993, despite efforts in the public health community to remove the ban when Congress reformed U.S. immigration law in the early 1990s. While immigration law currently excludes foreigners with any “communicable disease of public health significance” from entering the U.S., only HIV was explicitly named in the statute.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.