People living with HIV are banned from traveling to twelve countries, including Armenia, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sudan, the United States and Yemen.
China just lifted its ban, as a result of pre-Olympic human rights pressure. Yesterday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged these nations to change their immigration laws — which "uphold stigma and discrimination" — during a major summit on HIV/AIDS.
Andrew Sullivan forcefully advocated for a removal of the discriminatory ban, in a recent Washington Post op-ed. He pointed out that not even leprosy or tuberculosis is considered grounds for inadmissibility to the US. Sullivan wrote about 1993, when Congress wrote the ban into law:
It was when I, a legal immigrant, became infected. With great lawyers, a rare O visa (granted to individuals in the arts and sciences), a government-granted HIV waiver and thousands of dollars in legal fees, I have managed to stay in the United States. Nonetheless, because I am HIV-positive, I am not eligible to become a permanent resident.
Sullivan, a conservative political commentator, explained that every year he must leave the country to reapply for the waiver. Even though he has lived in and paid taxes to the US for almost 25 years, he and his family must face the insecurity that he may not be allowed back. For further discussion, read more.
Since there are already Americans living with HIV, it is unnecessary to "quarantine" this country. In addition, every visitor or immigrant is required to provide private health insurance for 10 years after being admitted. Sullivan notes that tax dollars contributed by qualified HIV-admitees would outdo any cost.
As an American, it's always eye opening to examine the face my country presents to outsiders. What does this ban say about America? What does it say to fellow-Americans already living with HIV, when we make their condition the only medical condition that legally prevents someone from stepping foot in our country?