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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

End the HIV Travel Ban

posted by on July 15 at 9:30 AM

Republicans are moving to retain the HIV travel ban—did you know that Jesse Helms got this passed in the first place?—so I’m reposting this call to action. If you haven’t written to your senator yet, please do so now.

Having HIV is the “only medical condition that renders people inadmissible to the United States,” John Kerry and Gordan Smith wrote in an op-ed published in yesterday’s Washington Times.

In fact, we are just one of 12 countries that prohibit, almost without exception, HIV-positive non-citizens from entering the country (China has recently overturned its ban). This policy places the United States in the same company as Sudan, Russia, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

Sudan, Russia, Libya, Saudi Arabia—that’s some mighty fine company we’re keeping. But there’s an effort underway in the U.S. Senate to repeal our cruel, regressive, and unnecessary ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants. And you’ll never guess who’s leading the charge against this long-overdo repeal? Sen. David Vitter—yes, Vitter the Shitter, the hooker-banging, diaper-wearing “family values” douchebag from Louisiana.

You can help end discrimination against HIV-positive tourists and immigrants by contacting your senators now—before you leave work today—and telling them to support the bipartisan Smith-Kerry HIV Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act. Contact info for your senators can be found here. And some good background on this issue can be found here, here, here, and here. Andrew Sullivan—who is HIV-positive and an immigrant—is tracking developments at the Daily Dish.

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Dan, I wrote Murray and Cantwell and heard back only from Murray -- here's her response:

Dear Mr. ######:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about the current ban on immigration and travel for persons with HIV/AIDS programs. I appreciate hearing from you and I share your concern on this issue.

An elimination of this travel ban is an important provision of global AIDS legislation that is due for a vote shortly in Congress. Should it pass, we could finally see an end to this anachronistic travel and immigration ban. In the larger picture, I believe that the United States must take an even greater leadership role in the global AIDS crisis. I have made a point to support global programs that combat the spread HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria throughout the world, and support passage of new and improved programs to fight these diseases at home and abroad.

Today the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Nearly five million individuals around the globe are newly infected with the HIV virus each year, 700,000 of which are children. In 2003 alone, AIDS claimed the lives of 2.2 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, Africa is not alone in its struggle to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS. Almost one million new infections were reported in South and South-East Asia last year.

As you may know, the vast majority of people with HIV live in the developing world and I believe the United States must take an even greater leadership role in confronting the global AIDS crisis. While I have supported President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), I believe that proven public health strategies, rather than ideology, must drive HIV/AIDS programs.

I will continue fight hard to ensure that more funds are available for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I can assure you that I share your concerns for funding of HIV/AIDS programs and will continue to support HIV/AIDS funding that works toward the health of all people.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Don't hesitate to do so in the future with any other questions or comments you may have.

I hope all is well in Seattle.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 15, 2008 10:02 AM

Has Cantwell issued a statement?

Posted by Fnarf | July 15, 2008 10:06 AM

Dan, I contacted Senators Boxer and Feinstein. I only heard back from DiFi, but she said in her letter that she supported ending the travel ban, and that something like seven Republican Senators were holding the whole thing up. Stupid Senate. I hate that 7 people can have more impact than 93.

Posted by arduous | July 15, 2008 10:06 AM

hmmm... is there a compromise? Can we swap the HIV travel ban for an ebola travel ban?

Posted by daniel | July 15, 2008 10:38 AM

i wrote DiFi last week, got a supportive response.

you would think the US being in the same league as a handful of middle-eastern countries would be enough to shame them all into submission. i guess they love their AIDSophobia more than their islamophobia.

Posted by brandon | July 15, 2008 10:48 AM

Wrote to Specter and Casey, Jr.

Hooray for no more Santorum!!!

Posted by jen | July 15, 2008 10:54 AM

As a minor point of clarification, Russia does not ban HIV-positive travelers. It only requires proof of HIV-negative status for foreigners applying for a visa in excess of three months, or for a multi-entry visa. While it does prohibit HIV-positive people from extended stays or residence in the country, if you are traveling there for a period of under 90 days, you are not required to disclose HIV status in any way.

Posted by rb | July 15, 2008 11:09 AM

I finally have senators of my very own now that I've moved out of Taxation Without Representation DC, so I've just sent letters to Cardin and Mikulski.

Posted by julia | July 15, 2008 11:34 AM

There are plenty of other contagious conditions that render one ineligible for immigration. The only difference is that HIV is incurable at this time. There are provisions that allow one to get an exemption to this blanket refusal - family reunification and refugee status can both work. One does have to prove that one is not a threat to the public health and that one won't be asking for publicly funded treatment.

Posted by CB | July 15, 2008 11:50 AM

Damn, I am so proud to be an American today. I just read where one of the "manson girls" has cancer and has cost the state over 1.4 million in healthcare since March. Tex Watson fathered 3 children while incarcerated.
And then I read this. OK, I know they are not related other than how fucked up is this country????
If these people come to the US and commit a crime, then they are worthy of health care???
OK, I'm going to the bar...

Posted by Joy | July 15, 2008 1:56 PM


Looks like I'm the first to post after the measure passed the Senate. Good for us. It's a tiny step to joining the 21st century, but a necessary one. Reading Sullivan's piece was extremely moving. Congratulations, Andrew. Make yourself a drink and stay for a while. And it's too bad Jesse Helms is dead, I'd love to think this makes his torment in Hell a little worse.

Posted by Paul | July 16, 2008 8:33 PM

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