New Rules For HIV-Positive People Visiting US More Restrictive

Armen Hareyan's picture

New regulations forHIV-positive people visiting the U.S. are more restrictive than the oldrules , which prohibited issuance of visas to people living withHIV, critics of the rules said recently, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Under the old restrictions, HIV-positive people could visit the applying for a waiver to the rules. According to the Chronicle,the waiver process was "cumbersome," and some critics said it was"slow, arbitrary and unfair." President Bush in December 2006requested the waiver process be streamlined with new administrative rules.Federal authorities occasionally have granted some short-term exceptions to therules, such as allowing HIV-positive researchers to attend scientificconferences in the U.S.,according to the Chronicle.

The new rules were proposed by the Department ofHomeland Securityand took 11 months to draft. According to some critics, the new rules wouldrequire that visitors prove they are bringing with them to the U.S. an"adequate supply of antiretroviral medicines." However, Veronica NurValdes, a DHS spokesperson, said the current waiver rules already require thatHIV-positive visitors "must be traveling with an adequate supply ofdrugs." Applicants for a waiver also would have to agree to not extendtheir visit to the country, and visits would be limited to two 30-day staysannually, according to Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality. HIV-positive people who are foundto be violating the rules could be permanently banned from entering the U.S. Accordingto the Chronicle, in an effort to cut red tape, the new ruleswould remove a requirement that applications for a waiver be reviewed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and instead would leave waiver decisions toU.S. consular offices worldwide. A public comment period on the new rules isscheduled to expire Thursday.



According to the Chronicle,opponents of the new rules are using the deadline for public comment tocriticize the rules, as well as the policy that HIV-positive people requirespecial visas to enter the U.S.

Paul Volberding, chief of medicine at the VA MedicalCenter in San Francisco and anadviser to Physicians for Human Rights, said the new rules are morediscriminatory than the old ones. U.S.citizens "travel to other countries for pleasure and business withoutrestrictions," Volberding said, adding that the U.S. places "barriers againstthose from other countries for a chronic, treatable disease that is notcasually spread." He added that requiring local consular offices to makedecisions on waiver applications could fuel discrimination because applicantswould have to disclose their HIV status to officials in their communities.

Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of PHR, said that only 13 nations worldwideimpose similar restrictions on HIV-positive visitors. "These policies aretotally counterproductive to our own country's programs to address the global AIDS crisis," she said, adding,"To put possibly more restrictive policies on the table does not serve anypublic health interest." Nur Valdes said the new rules will improve theprocess, adding that local consular offices will determine whether waiverapplicants have a "controlled state of HIV infection" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle,12/6).

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