Subject: [fem-women2000 589] US entry restrictions on HIV+
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 12:47:46 +0900
Seq: 589

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 19, 2001 10:27 AM
Subject: US entry restrictions on HIV+

US entry restrictions on HIV+
David Patterson

As of 16 February, participation of people with HIV infection in the New
York preparatory meetings for UNGASS and of the Special Session itself was
still unclear. This includes both HIV positive NGO delegates as well as
HIV positive members of national delegations, and other participants.

Some ECOSOC-accredited NGOs and other NGOs have decided to write to the
President of the General Assembly expressing concern about this issue.
This note seeks to place the issue in the broader context of the UN
system-wide ban on meetings and conferences on AIDS in countries with
short-term travel restrictions on people with HIV.

This note is based on the best information I could obtain at the time of
writing. If you are HIV positive and need a visa to enter the US, then you
should consult an immigration lawyer or local AIDS organisation to
ascertain the current situation.

Non-US residents entering the United States must generally have a visa. In
applying for a visa, applicants must answer yes or no as to whether they
are suffering from a communicable disease. (Citizens of some countries can
benefit from a 'visa waiver', but they still have to answer this question
when filling out the green I94W form at the point of entry.)

US government policy is that 'communicable disease' includes HIV
infection. Persons with HIV who answer yes to this question may still be
granted a US visa under certain conditions, but their HIV status will
become known to immigration authorities and they may be refused entry in
future on this basis.

Persons with HIV who obtain a visa by answering this question falsely risk
being refused entry, deportation, and being denied future entry to the
United States.

The US government could issue either individual waivers or a blanket
waiver for the Special Session and its preparatory meetings (or of course
it could drop the ban entirely). If individual waivers are to be issued,
persons with HIV applying for a visa to attend the Special Session and its
preparatory meetings would declare their status and be issued a visa, but
as noted above, this will bring their HIV status to the attention of the
authorities and may affect their future chances of entering the USA.

If a blanket waiver is issued, in effect the definition of 'communicable
disease' will not include HIV infection for the period specified in the
waiver, so people with HIV infection can truthfully answer no to this
question when applying for a visa to attend the Special Session and its
preparatory meetings.

In the past some UN organizations have invited people with HIV to attend
meetings in the United States knowing that these people might lie to
obtain visas to do so. This practice is illegal and demeans the integrity
of both the UN and the people with HIV invited to attend these meetings.

In response to the ban in the USA and some other countries, in 1993, the
Organizational Committee (OC) of the UN Administrative Committee on
Coordination (ACC) endorsed a policy of non-sponsorship of international
conferences and meetings on AIDS in countries with HIV/AIDS-specific short
term travel restrictions, as set out in document ACC/1993/OC/II/CRP.6, and
recommended that all organizations of the United Nations system adopt it
as a system-wide policy. The ACC is the highest inter-agency coordination
body, comprising heads of agencies. The OC decision was noted by the ACC
in October 1993(ACC/1993/28).

The original WHO policy was in part in response to the resolution of the
World Health Assembly (WHA41.24) condemning discrimination against people
with HIV infection, as well as relevant resolutions of the General
Assembly. The policy refers to both 'international conferences and
meetings on AIDS', and specifically excludes training activities,
workshops and seminars.

The policy states in part: 'Entry requirements which discriminate solely
on the basis of a person's HIV-status have no public health justification,
violate human rights, stigmatize people with HIV infection or AIDS, and
impede implementation of the Global AIDS Strategy. Discretionary waivers
of such restrictions for short-term travellers with HIV infection or AIDS
not represent an acceptable limitation of such discriminatory and
exclusionary policies. Furthermore, WHO will not attend international
conferences on AIDS in countries with such restrictions unless such
attendance is deemed essential for promoting WHO's policy of
non-discrimination in relation to HIV-infected people and people with

'HIV/AIDS-specific short-term travel restrictions' is defined in the
policy as 'HIV/AIDS-specific legislation, regulations and/or written
policies requiring any or all of the following in relation to short-term
travellers: HIV testing, self-declaration of HIV status, or exclusion of
persons known or suspected of having HIV infection or AIDS.'

If the ACC policy is to be applied with respect to the UNGA Special
Session on HIV/AIDS, this would preclude the participation of the UN
system in this meeting in New York. Unless the meeting is moved to a host
country without
such restrictions, the only acceptable option at this stage would be for
the US Government to issue a formal statement to the effect that the
restriction is suspended for the period of the preparatory meetings and
the Special Session itself (and adequate travel days either side of these
periods). It is not acceptable to require persons with HIV to
self-disclose to obtain an
individual waiver in order to attend the preparatory meetings or the
Special Session. Nor would a waiver for the Special Session alone be
adequate, as the participation of civil society, including people with
HIV, has been stressed in the preparations for the Special Session, and is
a principle established since the 1994 Paris Summit.

In any case, a discretionary waiver for the UNGASS and the preparatory
meetings should be regarded as an extraordinary one-off measure in light
of urgency of the issue, and not be considered a precedent for future such
meetings. The use of the discretionary waiver clearly contravenes the ACC
policy. The UN should affirm that travel restrictions on people with HIV
contravene public health principles and international human rights law,
and should never be condoned by the United Nations.

David Patterson
Main Representative to the United Nations in Geneva
International Council of AIDS Service Organizations

B R E A K   T H E    S I L E N C E

UN General Assembly - Special Session on HIV/AIDS
New York - 25 to 27 June, 2001

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