With passage of PEPFAR, Senate repeals ban on HIV positive travelers

For the last twenty years (since 1987) HIV positive individuals have been unable to enter the United States for any reason, be it travel, stopover or immigration.

AIDS activists and their allies have been attempting to repeal this ban for years, but have had a real chance only since Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006. An initial attempt to pass PEPFAR was made in 2003 but a small group of conservative Republican senators stalled the bill in an attempt to take away certain provisions, such as the repeal of the travel ban. This newest PEPFAR goes way beyond the 2003 version, specifically acknowledging the gay community and our needs.

From the Gay City News:

The change was part of legislation reauthorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which will spend $50 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing nations.

While this is a great victory it is only a first step.

In 1993 the late Senator Jesse Helms pushed through legislation that added HIV to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) list of communicable diseases which bar travel. It is now up to the HHS Secretary to decide whether or not to actually remove HIV from this list.

President Bush has conveyed his support for PEPFAR in general (via Reuters):

With passage of today’s bill we are one step closer to ensuring that this excellent program continues to help those in need. I encourage the full Congress to move quickly to send me final legislation that I can sign.

It is unclear, however, how the administration feels about repealing the ban on positive travelers.

Comments are closed.