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Faith Communities Call on the US Government to Lift HIV Travel Restrictions

27. July 2009

    The US government is finally proposing to remove ``Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection'' from the definition of ``communicable disease of public health significance'' – thereby lifting the travel ban against people living with HIV from entering the U.S. or obtaining legal permanent residency.

    10 August: Letter submitted by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    Faith communities call the on US government to lift HIV travel restrictions


    Introduction

     

    The US is one of 13 countries that currently bars people living with HIV from entering or transiting through their borders without a special waiver.


    The US government is finally proposing to remove ``Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection'' from the definition of ``communicable disease of public health significance'' – thereby lifting the travel ban against people living with HIV from entering the U.S. or obtaining legal permanent residency.

    As the EAA and other advocates have emphasized over the past two years of campaigning on this issue, the current US government policy entrenches stigma and discriminatory practices against people living with HIV who wish to travel to the US. This policy has been contrary to international human rights protections against discrimination and serves no justifiable public health purpose.
    The proposed revision to the US regulation is now open for public comment (until 17 August 2009). As it is imperative that the revision be implemented, the EAA has prepared a letter now open to signatures from EAA members and faith-based supporters to add their voice in calling for the lifting of the US travel ban. The text of the letter is below.

    What can YOU Do?
    The EAA encourages faith-based organizations and people of faith to sign on to the letter below and take other steps as an organization to support the proposed US rule to remove HIV infection from the definition of communicable diseases of public health significance and the proposal to remove the specific requirements for HIV testing for persons who are required to undergo a medical examination for US immigration purposes.

    •    Sign on to the letter below
    www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx
     or send an email to: info@e-alliance.ch no later than 14 August 2009.

    •    Forward this Action Alert to your friends, members of your church, and religious leaders to ad their names to this important letter.

    •    Find out the status of any travel restrictions imposed by your country. The list of countries with HIV-related travel restrictions and the types of restrictions change often. Check up-do-date information before you advocate with a specific government. (For more detailed information country-by country, http://www.hivtravel.org/)

    •    Inform the media about the issue and the discriminatory practices of many countries, including the policies of your own country.

    •    Raise awareness among your networks and constituency about the travel restrictions. Many people are not even aware that such restrictions exist.

    •    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, an EAA member, has also prepared a letter supporting the lifting of the US HIV travel ban.  The EAA encourages faith-based communities in the U.S. to also sign on to this letter. The letter can be viewed at: www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/docs/21858/download/.   Sign-ons must be received by 5 August 2009 by sending an email to Kim.Stietz@elca.org

    For more information
    EAA Briefing Paper: Discrimination, Isolation and Denial: Travel Restrictions Against People Living with HIV: www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/hivaids/publications/discrimination-isolation-denial/
    The complete text and analysis of the new proposed rule:  edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-15814.htm

    Comments already submitted on the new proposed rule:  wwwn.cdc.gov/publiccomments/comments/proposed-removal-of-hiv-entry-ban.aspx

    The Global Database on HIV Related Travel Restrictions:  www.hivtravel.org
    Around the World with HIV:  an educational game about HIV-related travel restrictions:  www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/hivaids/stigma/travel-game/

    Text of the Letter:

    Division of Global Migration and Quarantine
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Department of Health and Human Services
    Attn: Part 34 NPRM Comments
    1600 Clifton Road, NE., MS E-03
    Atlanta, GA 30333
    USA
    Re. Docket No. CDC-2008-0001

    Dear Sir/Madam:

    We write on behalf of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) and faith-based partners and allies around the world to welcome and applaud the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on July 2, 2009, which removes the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection from the definition of communicable diseases of public health significance from Title 42, part 34, of the Code of Federal Regulations.

    We are pleased that this long overdue rule acknowledges that “while HIV infection is a serious health condition, it does not represent a communicable disease that is a significant threat for introduction, transmission, and spread to the United States population through casual contact as is the case with other serious conditions such as tuberculosis. An arriving alien with HIV infection does not pose a public health risk to the general population through casual contact”.

    As people of faith, we believe that the current US government policy entrenches discriminatory practices against people living with HIV who wish to travel to the U.S., and such restrictions promote stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. This policy has been contrary to international human rights protections against discrimination and serves no justifiable public health purpose.

    The U.S. “travel ban” has been contravening the global leadership the United States. asserts it is providing in the response to HIV and AIDS, and diminishes its credibility. The ban has been a significant barrier to churches, mosques, temples and people in the U.S. having the privilege to engage directly in dialogue and action with people living with HIV from other countries.
    Therefore, we support the proposed rule to remove HIV infection from the definition of communicable diseases of public health significance and the proposal to remove the specific requirements for HIV testing in 42 CFR 34.3 which applies to persons who are required to undergo a medical examination for U.S immigration purposes.

    However, we remain concerned that the proposed rule does not clarify a number of lingering and potentially discriminatory affects of the current policy it seeks to revert.

    1.)    Despite a new rule, what is the impact on people living with HIV who previously failed to declare their HIV status – can they be subject to any legal penalty if they enter the U.S.?  Will there continue to be any discrimination?

    2.)    If a person living with HIV previously applied for a visa waiver to enter the U.S. and was rejected because of their HIV status, will this have any lasting impact on future applications to enter the U.S.?

    3.)    What will happen to the list of names and data, held by any government agencies, of people living with HIV who were previously denied or granted a visa waiver? What steps will be taken to ensure that information is never used allowed to contribute to any discrimination against the individuals because of their HIV status?
    The EAA (www.e-alliance.ch) is a global network of churches and related organizations around the world who advocate on HIV and AIDS.  We come from large and small churches and agencies. Our members are Protestant, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal organizations which represent hundreds of millions of Christians in the United States and around the globe.  And we work in collaboration with all faiths and secular networks promoting the rights of people living with HIV and people and communities affected by the virus.
    We are counting on the United States Government to finally end its discriminatory practice of restricting travel by people living with HIV, to demonstrate real global leadership by setting this important example, and to keep the promises already made by the previous Administration in 2006.
    Yours in faith,

    For past Action Alerts and Bulletins from the HIV and AIDS Campaign,
    see www.e-alliance.ch/en/s/news/
    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see www.e-alliance.ch


The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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