While nearly a million HIV+ American citizens enjoy the freedom to leave and travel outside their country, the United States government prohibits HIV+ individuals from other countries entry to the United States! Without a doubt, this ban is the most blatant display of discrimination against HIV+ people to date! This ban continues to fuel discrimination, while a worldwide community strives to stop the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV and AIDS!
It is obvious that there is little understanding of HIV or compassion from the American government and other countries, which impose such a ban. I am a Canadian. I am OUT about my HIV infection publicly and as such, I am not allowed to visit the United States. Are individuals who are infected with HIV to be continually and indefinitely discriminated against purely on the basis of their viral infection?
At 52 years of age and HIV+ for 20 years, I am unable to enter the United States whether to visit friends or to vacation. I have been unable to submit abstracts for conferences and unable to accept invitations to participate at HIV/AIDS events held in the United States. This problem plagues many HIV+ people forcing them to lie to immigration officers and to hide their medications or worse to stop their medications, which may put them at even greater risk of developing drug resistance and illness!
Today, when families are spread out far and wide all over the world, many are not able to visit their relatives or friends who reside in the United States. Others who wish to enter the USA may have varied reasons for travel such as: seeking and/or receiving specific medical attention, attending conferences and providing HIV education and awareness.
People of all ages and from all walks of life are infected with HIV. This virus may or may not cause progression to disease or death. There are HIV+ individuals living a happy and full life with or without medications. Some individuals who engaged in drug treatments have been able to discontinue their medications for months and even years. There are infected individuals who have never had any immune suppression and have never had any HIV replicated in their bodies. There are individuals who know they are infected but who refuse to be tested for fear of discrimination. There are doctors, nurses and health care workers who were infected accidentally. Some people were infected through receiving HIV tainted blood. There are HIV+ individuals who are now seniors. Infected individuals are in loving relationships. Mothers gave birth and now, their children are grown and having children. There are HIV+ individuals who have survived since the first cases were diagnosed. Any one of the examples above is sufficient reason for removing the ban!
We are not criminals! People infected with HIV are no different from anyone else and are not asking to be different! Unfortunately, they are infected with a virus. When people hear that HIV+ individuals are banned from entering the United States, they are shocked initially and then are disgusted that access is denied on this basis.
This discriminatory ban, which prevents HIV+ individuals from entering the United States is ethically wrong and should be lifted immediately!
Bradford McIntyre, HIV+ 20 years
Vancouver, B.C. Canada