A Victory for Common Sense and Humanity

For over two decades, HIV-infected persons have been banned from coming into the United States for either travel or immigration purposes. Today, Pres. Obama announced the end of that ban:

President Obama called the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals a decision “rooted in fear rather than fact” and announced the end of the rule-making process lifting the ban.

The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules, which have been under development [for] more than a year. “We are finishing the job,” the president said.

The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.

A ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.

A 1990-1991 effort to overturn the regulatory ban failed in the face of outcry and lobbying from conservative groups and bureaucratic turf disputes. The ban was upheld in 1993 when Congress added it to U.S. immigration laws.

The Senate finally voted to overturn the ban as part of approving legislation reauthorizing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2008, and President Bush signed it into law on July 30 of that year. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) led the process in the Senate.

Andrew Sullivan callsĀ it “a small but critical part of this administration’s legacy on HIV and civil rights and human dignity:

It really is change – and it took Obama to finish it off. Many of us will remember it for the rest of our lives.

Charles Lemos at MyDD notes that, with today’s announcement, there are only six countries left in the world with restrictive laws on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals, and he adds:

The accomplishments of the Administration are beginning to add up. Today we undid Reagan and erased part of the hateful legacy of Jesse Helms. It’s a good day to be an American.

Explore posts in the same categories: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Politics

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