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Human Rights Advocates Urge Sebelius to Act Swiftly

US is one of only 14 nations that bar entry of people living with HIV or require disclosure for short-term stays

For Immediate Release

(Washington, DC) — As Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary-designate Kathleen Sebelius begins her Senate confirmation hearings, leading human rights advocates urged her to move quickly upon her confirmation to lift US restrictions on the entry of people living with HIV into the United States. The HHS regulation is opposed by over 200 health groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the World Health Organization.

“It is far past time for the US to join the community of nations whose HIV entry policies are rooted in sound public health practices, rather than discrimination and ignorance,” said Pat Daoust, MSN, RN, Director of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS campaign.

The US is one of 14 countries that either refuse entry of people living with HIV or require disclosure of HIV infection even for short-term stays. The other 13 are Brunei, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Tunisia, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

In July 2008 as part of the bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Congress removed the statutory requirement to deny people living with HIV entry into the US as visitors and immigrants. However, HIV remains on HHS's list of communicable diseases that limit entry into the US. There is no scientific evidence supporting the ban as an effective strategy for preventing HIV infections or reducing public healthcare costs. Further, the current law violates the human rights to freedom of movement, freedom from discrimination, and privacy.

“Just as the Administration moved swiftly to reverse the HHS 'conscience rule,' so too should they act with due haste to uphold the human rights of people living with HIV and ensure that US travel and immigration policies are rooted in sound public health principles,” said Daoust. “Congress paved the way for a reasoned HIV travel policy by lifting the statutory ban last summer and now the Obama Administration must finish the job.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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