The US government is very close to ending the discriminatory HIV Travel Ban, which prohibits people living with AIDS from entering the United States. Take action today by telling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to end the HIV Travel Ban.Feel free to use the following talking points and your own experience to draft your comment to HHS, which is sponsoring a public comment period on lifting the travel ban July 2nd through August 17th, 2009. The more comments they receive urging them to lift the ban, the better!Restricting entrance to the US based on HIV status has not been shown to protect the public's health. The restrictions are discriminatory, violate basic human rights, and limit effective responses to HIV:
- Introduction of disease: The World Health Organization, the CDC, and public health groups around the world have stated that banning the entry of HIV-positive immigrants into a country is not an effective method of keeping HIV from spreading throughout the country. Studies show that immigrants are more likely to contract HIV in the US and spread it to their country of origin than to spread the disease within the US.
- Stigma: The Travel Ban promotes discrimination against HIV-infected immigrants in the US and causes many immigrants to avoid getting tested or seeking treatment, for fear of deportation and stigma. The ban also reinforces stigma against all HIV-infected individuals, discouraging US citizens from seeking testing and treatment.
- Treatment barriers: If people entering the US are caught carrying HIV medications, they can be questioned or denied entry. This pushes people with HIV to suspend their treatment while traveling to the US, causing them to potentially develop drug resistant strains of the virus and increasing the likelihood of treatment failure.
- Resource allocation: Every person over the age of fifteen who is applying to be a permanent resident of the US is tested for HIV by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service; this is the largest HIV testing program in the world. The resources used for this testing could be better allocated by providing HIV education, testing, and treatment in immigrant communities. Due to poverty and to feelings of isolation and alienation, immigrants are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior or drug use. The language barrier often limits immigrants' access to HIV education.
- Freedom of movement: The Travel Ban limits choice of country of residence based solely on HIV status. The ban also restricts HIV-positive immigrants' trips to their countries of origin because they fear being denied entry back into the US.
- Economic contribution of immigrants: In 1987, when the Travel Ban was first instituted, HIV infection often barred people from leading healthy, productive lives. With the development of new treatments, that is no longer the case. HIV-positive immigrants can often make positive contributions to the US economy. Many of life-extending treatment options available in the US may not be obtainable or affordable in an immigrant's country of origin.
- Expert opinion: Over 200 health groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the World Health Organization, and Physicians for Human Rights have opposed the current US policy.
- Immigrants in detention: Over 30,000 immigrants are detained in the US at any one time while they await deportation or an immigration hearing or verdict. The detention facilities often fail to provide adequate HIV treatment and testing services to immigrants.