Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm Just A Bill, Here On Capitol Hill

Sens. Kerry, Smith Introduce Senate Bill to Ease HIV Restrictions, Restore Compassion to HIV Policy -via Gay News Blog

Senator Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Smith (R-OR) have introduced a bill to alleviate the restrictive policy that bars HIV-positive individuals from entering the U.S. and from becoming residents.

The United States has one of the harshest restrictions in the world on HIV-positive immigrants. HIV-positive people from other countries are almost completely banned from entering the U.S. Customs officials can search anyone's luggage and if they find HIV medication, send the person back on the next plane. In addition, immigration officials can force a temporary visitor to take an HIV test on demand.

"It's incredible that the federal government still tolerates a ban that not only restricts AIDS experts with the disease but also refugees who are seeking asylum in our country," said Sen. Kerry. "My legislation will end this draconian law."

"Immigration Equality applauds Senators Kerry and Smith for sending a strong signal that the U.S. is a compassionate nation, states Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality. "Restricting an individual's liberty of movement or choice of residence on the grounds of HIV does not protect the public health."

Under current immigration law and policy any person who has contracted HIV/AIDS is statutorily barred from entering the U.S. and from seeking residency. Limited waivers are available but difficult to obtain and may prompt future exclusion thus discouraging participation.
If enacted the bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by removing the statutory ban on HIV and extend authority over HIV inadmissibility with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HIV is the ONLY condition permanently written in to the law. For every other disease, HHS is authorized to add or subtract based upon its discretion and the threat to the public health. The U.S. is one of only 13 countries to have such harsh HIV restrictions including, Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Qatar, South Korea, Libya, Moldova, Oman, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

How I hope and pray that they will, but today I am still just a bill.

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