President Barack Obama took another major step on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS on October 30. In addition to reauthorizing the Ryan White Care Act, the president also lifted the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants adopted through regulation over 20 years ago and codified by Congress in 1993.
Under that ban, HIV-positive foreign nationals were unable to enter the U.S. unless they obtained a special waiver, which was difficult to obtain and only allowed for short-term travel, and the vast majority were unable to obtain legal permanent residency.
In July 2008, President Bush signed into law, as part of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a provision that removed the ban from statute and returned regulatory authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to determine whether HIV should remain on a list of communicable diseases that bar foreign nationals from entering the United States. In June of this year, HHS issued a proposed rule lifting the ban and seeking public comment. – by Nancy Ford