Friday, June 20, 2008

Repeal of ban on HIV-positive visitors stalls

Coburn raises PEPFAR objections, but insiders say compromise is imminent

Legislation calling for the repeal of a controversial U.S. ban on foreign visitors and immigrants with HIV has been stalled in the Senate since March and its chances of passing this year are in doubt, even though it enjoys widespread bipartisan support.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers agree that the repeal measure is in danger because of opposition to parts of a larger, global AIDS relief bill to which it is attached, not because of opposition to the repeal provision itself.

But Senate Republican and Democratic leaders are blaming each other for the failure so far of the two sides to reach a compromise that would lead to Senate approval of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, a proposed $50 billion program to help developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean fight AIDS.

Gay and AIDS activists expressed optimism in March when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the PEPFAR bill with a clause attached that would repeal a law passed in 1993 that prohibits all foreign visitors who test positive for HIV from entering the United States. The 1993 law, initiated by former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), also bans foreigners with HIV from immigrating to the U.S.

Efforts to repeal the HIV ban were boosted last week when United Nations Secretary Gen. Ban Ki-Moon reiterated the U.N.’s longstanding opposition to all forms of discrimination against people with HIV.

Read the rest in the Washington Blade here.

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