WASHINGTON – Experts at an international AIDS conference held in Mexico City assigned a value to United States for reversing a 15-years-old law, prohibiting HIV-positives from entering the country.
President Bush has signed that act into law since two months, his management has not taken any step yet, required to put the signed law into practice, and legislatives and advocacy groups are wondering what is going on.
“We write to encourage you to act quickly to remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance and end the HIV travel and immigration ban,” Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., main supporter of the measure in the Senate, wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt last month. Fifty-eight House Democrats last week sent a letter to Bush that urged him to take “swift action on this issue.”
“Congress has sent a clear signal that we can’t fight discrimination and stigma abroad until we end them at home,” said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality. “Congress has done its part — it’s time for HHS to act.”
“We’re working hard to revise the regulation and it’s our goal to have it completed during this administration,” said HHS spokeswoman Holly Babin. She said it was “a time-consuming process and we are giving it the attention it deserves in an effort to anticipate all issues and get it right.”
HHS had been added HIV to the list of contagious diseases that banned a person from entry in 1987, a time of broken out and unawareness about the disease. The department in 1991 did its best to reverse that decision but Congress voted against it. In 1993 the HIV infection became the only medical condition openly listed under immigration law as foundation for inadmissibility.