HHS-CDC Proposal to Lift HIV Travel Ban
A proposed HHS-CDC Rule seeks to lift the HIV Travel Ban by removing HIV infection from the List of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance. The Proposed Rule is to be published in the Federal Register on June 30, 2009, and would both eliminate HIV from the List of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance, and remove the requirement for HIV testing from the medical examinations required before obtaining admission to the US.
As mentioned in a previous post, following a mandated public comment period of 45 days from the publication date of the proposed “Rule to Remove the HIV Travel Ban” in the Federal Register (June 30, 2009), HHS-CDC will review all commentary, draft a final rule, and publish the final rule, which will become effective 3o to 60 days from publication. Once the rule becomes effective, this will end the US HIV Travel Ban.
HHS-CDC has determined, according to the Proposed Rule, that HIV infection, although a serious health condition, does not represent a significant threat for spread to the US population through casual contact. That is, HIV positive individuals entering the US do not pose a public health risk to the general population through casual contact. The Proposed Rule states: “[t]hese changes reflect current scientific knowledge and public health best practices and will have the benefit of removing stigmatization of and discrimination against people who are HIV infected.”
Currently, the List of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance, in addition to HIV, includes: active tuberculosis, infectious syphilis, gonorrhea, infectious leprosy, chanchroid, lympogranuloma venereum, granuloma inguinale; quarantinable diseases designated by Presidential Executive Order; and communicable disease that may pose a public health emergency of international concern in accordance with the International Health Regulations of 2005.
Medical examinations screening for the diseases on the list are now required for admission into the US on an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the US. If an applicant is found to be infected with one of the diseases on the list, s/he is inadmissible and must seek a waiver.
Nonimmigrants or temporary visitors are not normally subject to medical examinations, although a consular officer may order such examination in certain circumstances. However, nonimmigrant visitors to the US who are infected with one of the diseases on the List (above) are inadmissible to the US unless they obtain a waiver. In nearly all circumstances, the waiver for HIV positive nonimmigrant visa applicants is burdensome and very short-term.
The proposed rule would eliminate obstacles for persons infected with HIV to live and work in the US, and to visit the US. It would also eliminate privacy issues that may arise from mandatory medical examinations, and would reduce stigmatization of persons with HIV.