by Rex Wockner
The U.S. Senate voted 80-16 on July 16 to repeal the nation’s ban on HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants.
Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., secured a provision to repeal the ban in the Senate’s legislation to reauthorize PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The measure now moves to a House-Senate conference committee, then goes to President George W. Bush, who is eager to see PEPFAR re-funded.
“We applaud the Senate for rejecting this unjust and sweeping policy that deems HIV-positive individuals inadmissible to the United States,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We call on the leaders of the House and Senate to retain the Kerry-Smith provision in conference and ensure it is included in the final legislation sent to the president’s desk.”
“The HIV ban is ineffective, unnecessary, and simply bad public health policy,” said Rachel Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. “It is especially harmful to gay and lesbian families, who do not benefit from the waiver available to opposite-sex couples. The Senate’s change is welcome, and long overdue.”
PEPFAR will send $48 billion to Africa over the next five years to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., called the bill “the single most significant thing the president has done.”