Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2009

REVERSING A SENSELESS BAN.... The Reagan administration and then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) imposed a travel and immigration ban more than two decades ago on those with HIV.

Today, President Obama announced the end of the ban.

President Obama called the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals a decision "rooted in fear rather than fact" and announced the end of the rule-making process overturning the ban.

The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules, which have been under development [for] more than a year. "We are finishing the job," the president said. [...]

The lifting of the ban removes one of the last vestiges of early U.S. AIDS policy. "We're thrilled that the ban has been lifted based on science, reason, and human rights. Our hope is that this decision reflects a commitment to adopting more evidence-based policies when confronting the AIDS epidemic and developing a comprehensive national AIDS strategy," said Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amFAR, an AIDS research foundation.

The president added, "It's a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives."

The announcement came as Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009.

It's only fair that I note, as the president did this morning, that progress first began on the travel/immigration measure a year ago. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) pushed for the change in the 2008 PEPFAR legislation, and the Bush administration approved the bill. It's a win for common sense, human decency, and bipartisanship.

The last major effort to drop the ban came in 1991, but it fell apart in the face of intense right-wing criticism. Fortunately, the country has come a long way since then.

Steve Benen 1:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (12)

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..and it's great being reminded that Rayguns and that god damned Jesse Helms are both still dead!

Posted by: neill on October 30, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

the only bad thing about - Sullivan now gets to stay in this country. it's well past time to take his sorry butt back to England and let him pontificate over there where he belongs

Posted by: andy on October 30, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

now if they would let gay men donate blood. oh well. one accomplishment at a time.

Posted by: mrwaturi on October 30, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone heard if Lou Dobb's head has exploded yet? Maybe people are afraid to tell him.

Posted by: Jeff on October 30, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

My favorite fact about this ban is that if other countries had had it, Magic Johnson would not have been allowed into Spain in 1992 to complete in the Olympics on the Dream Team.

Posted by: DonBoy on October 30, 2009 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

now if they would let gay men donate blood. oh well. one accomplishment at a time.

Not that it's really a comparison, but I'm permanently off the list because a) I lived in England (they're still worried about Mad Cow) and b) I've spent too much time in malarial zones. And I was once a great donor -- every eight weeks. The U.S. blood banks will throw you out for any of a number of reasons.

Posted by: shortstop on October 30, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Can we just be clear about something here? The law under Reagan left it up to the Secretary of HHS (or was it still HEW then?) to decide whether HIV was a "communicable disease of public health significance"; the administration so designated it, but it was subject to reversal by any future administration. In 1993, it was Bill Clinton who signed the law specifically banning HIV-positive immigrants, which was just repealed under, of all people, George Bush. What is happening now is that the Obama administration -- finally -- is exercising its authority to administratively remove HIV from the list of "communicable diseases of public health significance," thus finally lifting the ban.

This is one of the three acts (DADT and DOMA being the other two) for which I could never forgive Clinton.

Posted by: Glenn on October 30, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The 1990 Immigration Act left it up to medical judgment.

Posted by: theAmericanist on October 30, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

This began at the federal level in July 2008 when the Senate voted to repeal the travel ban. Bush signed it. The only thing left was to change the Administrative rules in HHS regarding "communicable diseases" and DHS regarding immigration and customs. That was stalled until July of this year, when Rep. Jim McDermott hammered at the Administration until they finally did so.

That's not the only AIDS-related ban being lifted this year. Back in July, the budget put forth by the Obama White House specifically left the ban on federally-funded syringe exchange programs in place, despite the campaign promise that the ban would be lifted. Congressional Dems told Obama to get stuffed, and stripped language from the budget which would have left the ban in place.

Neither of these developments would have happened without AIDS activists from ACT UP, D.C.-area AIDS organizations, Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, and Wisconsin Rep. David Obey.

ACT UP chains themselves inside the Capitol Rotunda, Jim McDermott pushes their cause on the House floor.

House Dems reverse the Administration's actions to leave the SEP funding ban in the budget.

If you have friends or family living with HIV or AIDS, thank Reps McDermott and Obey.

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