Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Congress to HHS: End the HIV Ban, Once and For All

Earlier this year, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, led a successful and historic effort in Congress to finally do away with the antiquated and unnecessary HIV-travel ban. The ban, which prevents HIV+ travelers and immigrants from entering the United States, is a discriminatory throwback to a time when we were largely ignorant about the disease and lived in fear of those who were infected and living with HIV. It is, at its core, a prejudicial policy that has prevented our country from hosting international HIV/AIDS conferences . . . and it has put us far behind other civilized nations, who long ago took their own bans off the books.

However, despite this summer's Congressional vote to repeal the ban, it still remains in effect, and will continue to be the law of the land until the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) modifies its regulations and implements Congress' will. Now, those who ushered through repeal on Capitol Hill are reiterating their intent, and urging HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt to follow their lead and get rid of the ban once and for all. Fifty-eight Members of Congress have sent a letter to the Administration, urging them to take action now.

"It's time for Secretary Leavitt and the Administration to finally eliminate this misguided policy," Senator Kerry (pictured) said in a statement released by Immigration Equality, which helped lead the effort to end the ban. "This is not something that can wait for the next Administration to come into office. We need to expedite this process and finally lift the HIV travel and immigration ban so that no one will be subjected to this discriminatory practice. There was no reason for the policy to still be on the books, and I will continue to fight to eliminate this draconian ban."

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