A Milestone On The HIV Ban


Today, the regulatory process of repealing the ban inches forward. It has been very frustrating, but when you follow the actual legally-mandated process, it takes time. There was a delay at the beginning of this administration, but the bureaucracy is now moving forward and the administration says it's very serious about getting it done. Vice-president Joe Biden reiterated his support last night. The pressure seems to have worked.

The new rule will pop up on the federal register this afternoon, initiating a 45 day mandatory public comment period. There's then another round of review from OMB and the CDC. Then, after it's published in final form in the federal register, there's an effective date of somewhere between 30 and 60 days for the ban to cease operation. That leaves us somewhere in the fall before the Jesse Helms anachronism finally ends its 22-year stigmatization and persecution of people of HIV.

Yes, it's been a long, long haul. But a little more patience is not too much to ask. The potential benefits are big.

Once the ban is lifted, the US will be able to become a venue for AIDS and HIV research conferences again (the US has been unable to host such events because of the ban for years), and leave behind the tiny number of countries - from Yemen to Saudi Arabia - that still actively stigmatize and penalize people with HIV in travel. It will remove a measure that discourages honesty about HIV, and promotes a stigma around the disease that makes effective prevention and treatment much harder. It will save lives. It will save relationships and marriages. It will place America where it belongs - at the forefront of global AIDS and HIV leadership. And because all immigrants have to prove they will not be a public charge and have private health insurance, and because a fee was added to the visa application to pay for the costs of enforcement, the fiscal effect is minimal - and offset by taxes legal immigrants like yours truly will continue to pay.

And it's worth recalling that the Bush administration also supported this change; and it was passed by huge majorities in both House and Senate; and was pioneered in part by Republican senators Smith and Lugar, as well as Kerry and Kennedy. Obama is carrying a bipartisan measure to fruition. For some of us, it means more than we can possibly express.

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