"We, the undersigned organizations, write to voice our strong support for Section 305 of the Tom Lantos & Henry J. Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Re-authorization Act of 2008 (S. 2731). This important provision removes the statute which permanently bans people living with HIV/AIDS from entering the U.S. or obtaining legal permanent residency and restores authority to HHS to determine, based on sound medical and public health reasoning, whether HIV status should be grounds for inadmissibility. We strongly urge you to oppose any attempt to remove this critical provision from the legislation.
Congress first adopted this policy in 1987 through an amendment directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to add HIV to the list of medical conditions barring visitors and immigrants to the United States. In the early 1990's, when, after careful consideration of the public health consequences, HHS sought to loosen these restrictions, Congress reacted by codifying the ban in our nation's immigration laws. To this day, HIV is the only medical condition listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act as a basis for inadmissibility. By contrast, the admissibility status for any other disease is left to the discretion of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, based upon the risk the illness poses to the public health.
This draconian policy has negative consequences for our nation. Health care professionals, researchers, and other exceptionally talented people have been blocked from the United States. Since 1993, the International Conference on AIDS has not been held on U.S. soil due to this policy. In addition, the United States is out of step with the international community and most other countries. The International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, produced jointly by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNAIDS, state that "there is no public health rationale for restricting liberty of movement or choice of residence on the grounds of HIV status."
In June of this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to discriminatory travel restrictions based on HIV status. The U.S. is one of only 12 countries - the others being Armenia, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sudan, and Yemen - to have such harsh travel restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS. Removing this discriminatory ban from our nation's statutes is a crucial step towards strengthening our nation's leadership in the global fight against HIV/AIDS - an important goal of the PEPFAR program. We understand that the manager's amendment includes an offset for this provision ensuring that no additional costs will be associated with its inclusion in the legislation. We strongly urge you to reject discrimination and stigma towards people living with HIV/AIDS by ensuring that this important provision survives Senate consideration of PEPFAR re-authorization fully intact."
The letter has been signed by 160 HIV organizations and sent to US Senators for consideration while voting to reauthorize PEPFAR.