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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Immigration HIV ban lifted

President Barack Obama in October lifted a 22-year-old ban that kept people infected with HIV or AIDS from entering the U.S.

‘Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the U.S. instituted a travel ban for people living with HIV/AIDS,’ Obama said. ‘Now ‘hellip; if we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.’

The institution of the ban came at a time of misinformation about HIV sparked fear. Some attorneys such as adjunct UH law professor John Nechman began fighting the ban more than a decade ago with advocacy group Immigration Equality.

‘When AIDS first surfaced, we as a nation, as a world, reacted in great fear and our first instinct was to close ourselves off,’ Nechman said.

The scientific community proved in 1987 that HIV was only communicable through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions and intravenous drug use. Despite these facts, the ban was initiated by the Department of Health and Human Services and codified into law in 1993 by an act of Congress that made HIV the only medical condition that could cause people to be denied entry into the country.

‘This went to the stigma of what was then perceived to be a gay disease,’ Nechman said.’ ‘I have no doubt (the ban) was almost entirely based on homophobia.’

Phill Stout, president of GLOBAL, the UH gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender student group, said people still associate the disease with homosexuality, even though many straight people are affected by it. Stout said the ending of the ban brings hope that the stigma regarding HIV can be erased.

‘It was good to hear the news,’ Stout said. ‘It was a sort of reassurance that we’re on the right path and no longer close-minded about keeping people out of the country because they are HIV-positive.’

Creative writing senior Lauren Pray said the ban itself was ridiculous.

‘There are people coming into this country, both legally and illegally, with diseases that are far more contagious,’ Pray said. ‘I’m glad to see the people in power have finally realized that.’

Until the lift, U.S. was one of only 12 countries to still have an HIV ban. The other countries are: Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Moldova, Russia, Armenia and South Korea.

‘China only removed themselves from the list prior to the Summer Olympics,’ Nechman said, ‘because they didn’t want the embarrassment of that list associated with the country.’

Nechman held seminars regarding the ban and said the education aspect of the fight must continue in order to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.’ On Monday, Nechman held a seminar at his law office to discuss what the end of the ban means to those previously affected.

‘I hope this will be one of the last times I ever have to talk about this,’ Nechman said before the seminar. ‘It’s great to know we live in a country that has joined the modern world.’

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