US Congress may lift HIV travel restriction

Here’s something I didn’t know: Since 1993, the US is one of only a few countries that has heavily restricted foreign visitors who are HIV-positive, forcing them to obtain approval from the Department of Homeland Security before entering the country.

Several lawmakers want that seemingly outmoded rule changed, however, and a bill is being introduced to do just that. From the AP:

“Now language in a bill extending the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief would delete the restriction. The bill, which directs billions to AIDS programs worldwide and is enthusiastically supported by President Bush, is set for a vote Thursday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

The Bush Administration has expressed that they too are troubled by the HIV-positive travel ban, but many are worried that the proposed solution might be worse than the problem. Under the new scheme, HIV-positive travelers would likely need approval from the US consulate in their home country before visiting the US. In addition, they would need to agree not to apply for an extended stay or permanent residency in the US.

It’s unclear how many HIV-positive travelers are denied entry to the US every year, especially since US officials have no way to know the medical history of every person who enters the country. But international AIDS conferences and summits have frequently had to be held outside the US because of the HIV restriction.

For more, read The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan on why he thinks the policy is “anachronistic and stigmatizing.”