On August 5, 2009, NHF and the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) submitted a joint letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supporting its proposed rule to eliminate the HIV travel ban. Currently, the U.S. is one of a dozen countries that prevents individuals with HIV from receiving visas to travel or immigrate to the U.S., unfairly discriminating against those with HIV or AIDS.
Travelers must submit to medical testing as part of the visa application process to determine if they have a "communicable disease of public health significance." Individuals found to have such a condition are not eligible to receive a visa to enter the U.S. These individuals may apply for a waiver of inadmissibility, but the waivers are typically limited in time and require the applicant to meet strict requirements. For instance, a person with hemophilia and HIV must attest to having adequate financial resources and insurance for both conditions in the event that a medical crisis occurs in the U.S.
The proposed rule, "Medical Examination of Aliens–Removal of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection from Definition of Communicable Diseases of Public Health Significance," would remove HIV from the list of diseases that block admission to the U.S. It also removes HIV from the list of diseases included in the medical examination an applicant must undergo as part of the visa application process.
The reason for the change is that much more is known now about HIV than when the rule was established in 1987. While HIV is a serious health condition, it is no longer considered a significant threat to the U.S. population because it is not transmitted through casual contact. This rule would implement the July 2008 legislation that reauthorized the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, which NHF advocated for at the time.
NHF strongly supports these proposed changes, and has asked the CDC to implement them as soon as possible. NHF and WFH have long advocated for the removal of this discriminatory ban, by expressing our concerns to Congressional leaders and to the Department of Homeland Security. The implementation of this proposed rule is an important step forward for the international bleeding disorders community. The CDC, which received public comments on the rule through August 17, 2009, will review the comments and publish a final rule in the Federal Register.