U.S. Senate votes to repeal HIV travel ban

The US Senate, whose public approval rating has been hovering around the high single digits, has finally done something right.

After fifteen years on the books, a law allowing border officials to refuse entry to HIV-positive visitors to the United States may finally be repealed. The bill, already passed by Congress, will be sent to the president’s desk in the near future. He is expected to sign it.

As we wrote four months ago, the US is one of only a dozen countries– including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the Sudan– with such a law. Even China decided last year to relax its restrictions on HIV-positive travelers.

The passage of the bill was a bipartisan effort, headed by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR).

Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic, whom we quoted in our previous post calling the ban “anachronistic and stigmatizing,” is understandably elated. Sullivan is an HIV-positive British citizen who lives in America– he was the recipient of a hard-to-obtain entry waiver– and says he wants to become an American citizen, but cannot because of his HIV status. Sullivan writes:

“Barring some unforeseen event, the HIV Travel Ban – a relic of the days when HIV was a source of fear and stigma and terror – is finally over… I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s one of the happiest days of my whole life. For two and a half decades, I have longed to be a citizen of the country I love and have made my home. I now can. There is no greater feeling.”

So a thumbs up to Congress, for once.