EU Pressures United States in HIV Travel Ban

European Union’s Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot questioned U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff as to why travelers with HIV are not allowed to make use of the U.S. Visa Waiver Programs.

Barrot’s office has been under pressure from Ministers of the European Parliament regarding the ability of HIV-positive individuals to travel into the United States. The issue could become a sticking point as talks between the two parties continue on the subject of EU citizens gaining permission to enter the US without the need for visas, which is the aim of the Visa Waiver Program.

The EU approved a resolution that the provisions should include HIV-positive travelers from Europe, and that all of its citizens would receive equal treatment regardless of HIV status. In contrast, the United States has had a ban since 1987 on HIV-positive travelers to enter the country. It is one of only 13 nations where such restrictions are in place, including Iraq, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Although exemptions are possible such as the use of waivers, they are difficult to obtain and does not give you the opportunity to change your status as visitors to the U.S.

Among those who want this ban to be overturned is Baroness Sarah Ludford of United Kingdom. Her official website even includes a petition calling for the repeal of the travel ban. "We are profoundly concerned at the current unjustified discriminatory treatment of people living with HIV or AIDS by the U.S. Authorities, in denying them the visa-free travel enjoyed or envisaged by their EU compatriots and making the obtaining of a visa extremely difficult such that the restrictions amount in practice to an almost complete travel ban," the petition stated.

"We assert that the refusal of visa waiver on grounds that HIV/ AIDS has no objective justification since the European Commission and UNAIDS both confirm there is no public health rationale for restricting freedom of movement, and we believe that the travel ban therefore represents discriminatory treatment and a denial of human rights," the petition continues. "We maintain that people with HIV/ AIDS are entitled to lead full lives without the exceptional and unfair burden of being required to publicly disclose their HIV/ AIDS status as a condition of entry to the US, such that if they are positive, their status becomes a permanent part of their recording placing them at further risk of discrimination."

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