July 16, 2008

... and now some GOOD news!

I know it's been an inordinately long time since I've posted here, but this is exciting enough that I'll forget about being bashful.

Today, during its debate about the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Senate effectively approved a measure to end the Federal ban on HIV-positive people entering the country. The ban has been in place since 1987, when the late Jesse Helms got it passed during a peak of homophobic AIDS-related hysteria. The ban has always had a disproportionate effect on queer people, since straight foreign nationals married to US citizens can get an HIV-ban waiver based on their marital status.

There's still a few more votes before the whole PEPFAR bill gets approved by both houses, and the Federal government will still be able to restrict entry into the country based on HIV status, but discretion as to whether or not HIV is "of public health significance" will be transferred to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Right now, HIV is the only medical condition in the Immigration and Nationality Act that makes a foreign national inadmissible to the US. The public health experts at HHS, who have pushed for loosening these restrictions in the past, are far less likely than Jesse Helms to single out HIV (for which transmission is easily preventable) as a reason for inadmissibility.

In other words, a bad and regressive law is being repealed, with practical consequences for foreign nationals with HIV, as well as more general symbolic significance, since a major codification of homophobic discrimination is being thrown away.

Immigration Equality is following this on their blog. Andrew Sullivan surely will be, too.

1 comment:

icarus said...

that is wonderful! thanks for posting such great news. i haven't been on top of this lately, so it was a great thing to read this evening!