NOVEMBER 06, 2009
President Obama has repealed a 16-year-old federal law he claims is “rooted in fear rather than fact” that bans immigration and travel to the U.S. by foreigners infected with AIDS.
Passed by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by Bill Clinton, the measure was designed to reduce the spread of the deadly disease in the United States. Since 1987 AIDS has appeared on the Department of Health and Human Services list of communicable diseases of public health significance. The president’s repeal essentially removes AIDS from the list, even though there’s no disputing that it is in fact a communicable disease.
With a stroke of a pen, AIDS will be erased from the government’s list of communicable diseases of public health significance in January. This will allow, for the first time in nearly two decades, foreigners infected AIDS to freely enter the U.S. Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Syphilis, Chancroid, Gonorrhea, Granuloma Inguinale, and Lymphogranuloma Venereum will stay on the concern list. That means five of the remaining seven are sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.
Lifting the ban is part of a U.S. effort to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS, according to Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who actually said that the nixed policy wrongly permitted the U.S. to enable the myth that HIV/AIDS is a threat. She added that the ability to travel freely and have access to affordable health care should be available to everyone.
Rescinding the AIDS travel ban actually got started during the George W. Bush administration. In 2006 Bush signed a measure allowing AIDS-infected visitors to enter the U.S. with short-term or business visas. In 2008 he signed a law allowing federal health officials to decide whether to take AIDS off the list of communicable diseases. Obama took the final step by once and for all ordering the removal thus lifting the travel ban.
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