Bush announces intention to let positive men and women enter U.S without special waiver
In an announcement made public on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, the Bush administration has declared its intention to issue an executive order allowing people who are HIV-positive to enter the U.S. on short-term visas without seeking a special waiver.
The order has yet to appear on the White House Web site and there is no indication when it might.
U.S. law allows the exclusion of foreigners who pose a public health risk. That was interpreted to exclude a HIV-positive Dutch visitor traveling to speak in the U.S. in 1989. It sparked a protest at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in 1990, and the conference has not returned to the U.S. in protest of the policy.
Congress codified that exclusion in 1993 by passing a law that prohibits foreigners from becoming citizens or obtaining a visa to visit the U.S. if they are HIV-positive. However, the provision may be waived on an individual basis if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the country to do so.
Blanket waivers have been issued for particular events, most recently the Gay Games in Chicago.
Those who have objected to the policy say it is demeaning, further stigmatizes the disease and contributes nothing to public health.
Furthermore, having notice of such an exemption stamped in their passport may subject the person to discrimination and possibly violence in their home country.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, called the proposed change “a vast improvement over current law,” though he would prefer to see a change in the law itself and not just an easing of the waiver process.
Gay pundit Andrew Sullivan has long advocated for eliminating the travel ban. In a recent blog, he noted, “When the First Lady recently sat down with African women dealing with HIV for a photo-op, the press did not tell you that the White House had first to secure that waiver to even allow those women into the country, let alone the White House,” wrote gay pundit Andrew Sullivan on his blog.
Sullivan called Bush’s move a “tiny, if welcome gesture” that should be followed by support for a legislative effort to remove HIV as a barrier to American residence and citizenship.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 8, 2006.