Monday, October 26, 2009

Repeal of HIV Ban In Final Stages

The cruel and unnecessary ban on HIV+ immigrants and non-immigrants is a tiny step away from being history, as of this past Thursday. This past summer, the U.S. Health and Human Services published proposed regulations to bring them in line with the Congressional repeal of the HIV ban in the last weeks of the Bush presidency in December 2008. With these changes, HIV will no longer be considered a "communicable disease of public health significance" and will no longer be a grounds of "inadmissibility" as it has been for more than 20 years for non-immigrants and immigrants. The comment period for the proposed regulations ended on August 17. Activists and attorneys, non-citizens and judges, and even the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services itself, optimistically awaited the Final Rule. Only a month after the proposed rule was published, USCIS announced that it would not longer deny cases where the sole reason for the denial is HIV, but instead will hold those cases in abeyance until the new policy is implemented. (See USCIS memo here.)

We learned today that HHS sent the "final rule" to Office of Management and Budget on October 22 for review. Review must occur within 60 days (by December 21), meaning the HIV ban will be gone by the end of the year, and perhaps even sooner. Immigration Equality a lead advocacy group on this issue predicts that OMB could announce approval of the Final Rule as soon as Wednesday October 28.

For an excellent summary of the history of the HIV ban before the August 17 publication of HHS's proposed regulations, see "U.S. HIV Travel and Immigration Ban is Going... Going... Almost Gone," by Laura Belmonte, Associate Professor of History and Director of American Studies at Oklahoma State University.

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