EU Pressures USA On HIV Travel Ban

The European Union is pressuring the United States to end its ban on HIV positive travelers. Under US law, HIV+ people are restricted from entering the United States.

The European Commissioner for Justice has raised the issue of issue of people with HIV being banned from entry into the US visa waiver programme with Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jacques Barrot has asked for “information on the reasons why individuals carrying HIV are excluded from using the US Visa Waiver Programme.” MEPs have kept pressure on the Commission over the issue as the EU is in negotiations with the US authorities to secure visa-free travel (a visa waiver) for EU citizens from all 27 member states.

The United States is one of 13 countries in the world, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, that bans visitors who are HIV-positive. London Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has been at the forefront of a campaign to overturn the ban on HIV positive people travelling to America.

A repeal of the ban has been before Congress since March, but has been stalled and may not be voted on during the current session despite widespread bipartisan support. The repeal is attached to a controversial global AIDS relief bill, hence the roadblock.

In the U.S., a broad coalition of groups calling for repeal of the HIV visitors and immigration ban, including civil liberties and human rights advocates, were hopeful that attaching the repeal measure to the highly popular PEPFAR bill would greatly increase its chances of passing.

Their expectations were dampened, however, when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and at least six other conservative GOP senators placed a hold on the PEPFAR bill, preventing it from coming up for a vote unless at least 60 senators vote to break the hold.

Coburn said his main concern was the decision by PEPFAR backers to drop from the existing 1993 PEPFAR law a requirement that at least 55 percent of AIDS relief funds be used for AIDS treatment, including the use of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. The 1993 law expires in September.

The Bush administration, at the recommendation of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, a gay official appointed by Bush, supports the decision to drop the 55 percent treatment floor. A number of prominent Republican senators and nearly all Senate Democrats also support dropping the 55 percent floor for treatment.