House Democrats Send Letter to President Bush Urging ‘Swift Action’ on Reversal of Rule Banning HIV-Positive Foreigners From Entering U.S.
Lawmakers and HIV advocates are urging the Bush administration to take action on reversing the current ban HIV-positive foreigners from entering the U.S., the AP/Los Angeles Times reports (Abrams, AP/Los Angeles Times, 9/20). President Bush in July signed into law a measure (HR 5501) that reauthorized the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through 2013 and included a provision that eases U.S. HIV/AIDS travel restrictions. HHS in 1987 placed HIV on a list of diseases that barred entry into the U.S. for those carrying the diseases. Although that prohibition is separate from the congressionally imposed travel restrictions eased in the PEPFAR bill, federal health officials no longer are bound by law to keep HIV on the list (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6). The agency must write a new rule and submit it for public comment before the ban can be lifted, the AP/Times reports.
Last week, 58 House Democrats -- including Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Henry Waxman (Calif.) and Howard Berman (Calif.) -- sent a letter to President Bush urging him to take "swift action" on a new rule. In addition, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) last month in a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said, "We write to encourage you to act quickly to remove HIV from the list of communicable diseases of public health significance and end the HIV travel and immigration ban."
HHS spokesperson Holly Babin said that the agency is "working hard to revise the regulation" and has a "goal to have it completed during [the Bush] administration." She added that revising the rule is a "time-consuming process" and that agency officials "are giving it the attention it deserves in an effort to anticipate all issues and get it right." Allison Herwitt, legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, said advocates will "continue to pressure" Leavitt to "finish the job and eliminate regulations that keep that unfair policy in place" (AP/Los Angeles Times, 9/20).