House Democrats Object To New Rules For HIV-Positive People Visiting US

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ThirtyHouse Democrats on Monday sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary MichaelChertoff objecting to new regulations for HIV-positive people visiting the U.S., the AP/Google.comreports. The lawmakers, along with gay rights groups, say the proposed rulesmight end up creating more barriers for HIV-positive visitors to the U.S. (Werner,AP/Google.com, 12/11). President Bush in December 2006 requested the waiverprocess that enables HIV-positive people to visit the U.S. bestreamlined with new administrative rules. The new rules, proposed by the Department of Homeland Security, would remove a requirement that applicationsfor a waiver be reviewed by the U.S. Citizenshipand Immigration Services and instead would leave waiver decisions to U.S. consular officesworldwide.

According to some critics, the new rules would require that HIV-positivevisitors prove they are bringing with them to the U.S. an "adequate supply ofantiretroviral medicines." Veronica Nur Valdes, a DHS spokesperson, saidthe current waiver rules already require that HIV-positive visitors "mustbe traveling with an adequate supply of drugs." Applicants for a waiveralso would have to agree to not extend their visit to the country, and visitswould be limited to two 30-day stays annually, according to Victoria Neilson,legal director for ImmigrationEquality. HIV-positivepeople who are found to be violating the rules could be permanently banned fromentering the U.S.(Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report,12/6).

According to a White House fact sheet about the new regulations, the"administration is working to end discrimination against people livingwith HIV/AIDS." It adds that under the new regulations, a"categorical waiver" will "enable HIV-positive people to enterthe [U.S.]for short visits through a streamlined process." However, applicants seekinga waiver under the new rules will "still have to somehow persuade anofficial that they are of minimal danger, will not transmit the virus and willnot cost the government money," the letter -- which was released on Mondayby Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) -- said. It added, "There would be noappeal process. Selecting this pathway would also require applicants to waiveany right to readjust their status once in the [U.S.] -- a waiver not requiredunder current policy."

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Valdes said the new rules do provide a streamlined process for HIV-positivepeople to visit the U.S. Valdes did not comment on the letter but said thedepartment will review it and respond. A public comment period on the new rulesexpired Thursday, but Valdes could not say when a final rule will be published,the AP/Google.com reports.

According to the Department of State, 139 people were found ineligibleto travel to the U.S.on a nonimmigrant visa because of having a communicable disease in fiscal year2006. It added that 127 of these applicants challenged the finding and wereable to obtain a visa, the AP/Google.com reports. Because these numbers applyto all communicable diseases and not just HIV/AIDS, the state department cannotprovide a figure for only HIV/AIDS cases. The numbers also do not take intoaccount people who were discouraged from applying for a visa because of theirHIV-positive status or who did not report their status, according to theAP/Google.com (AP/Google.com, 12/11).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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