POZLife: Life from the Infected and Effected point of veiw.

U.S. Restricts HIV-Positive Visitors

Posted by pozlife on November 17, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security announced proposed regulations Thursday purporting to offer a "streamlined," "categorical" waiver for HIV-positive visitors from other countries. However, by using this "streamlined" application process, applicants would have to also waive the possibility of any change in immigration status while in the United States.

The United States is one of 13 countries in the world to bar HIV-positive travelers from entering the country. Last year on World AIDS Day, President Bush announced that he intended to create a streamlined process for foreign travelers with HIV to enter the U.S. more easily. However, the regulations proposed nearly one year later would make it even harder to get a short-term waiver.

According to a joint release from Immigration Equality and Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the proposed changes do not hold much promise for HIV-positive travelers. "Unfortunately, despite using the terms ’streamlined’ and ’categorical,’ in reality these regulations are neither," said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality. "More than two decades into this epidemic, the United States continues to stigmatize people with HIV and treat this illness unlike any other virus. Creating insurmountable hurdles to travel does nothing to protect the American public from HIV."

Under the new rules, a visitor would need to travel with all the medication he would need during his stay in the U.S., prove that he has medical insurance that is accepted in the U.S. and would cover any medical contingency, and prove that he won’t engage in behavior that might put the American public at risk. The maximum term of the waiver would be 30 days.

The new regulations purport to speed up the waiver application process because consular officers would be empowered to make decisions on waiver applications without seeking DHS signoff.

"As written, the rule could leave individuals with HIV who obtain asylum in the U.S. in a permanent limbo — forever barred from obtaining legal permanent residence and therefore cut off from services, benefits, and employment opportunities," said Nancy Ordover, assistant director of Research and Federal Affairs for Gay Men’s Health Crisis. "It seems very disingenuous that the government is claiming to make things easier for people with HIV, but it’s really compelling them to forfeit their rights."

Homeland Security will issue a final decision on the proposed changes after a 30-day comment period ending on December 6.

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