What is the truth about HIV and refugees?
Posted by Ann Corcoran on May 15, 2008
Yesterday the Washington Post published an opinion piece by Andrew Sullivan who says that all immigrants with HIV aids are barred from the US. He begins “Phobia at the Gates”:
Twelve countries ban HIV-positive visitors, nonimmigrants and immigrants from their territory: Armenia, Brunei, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan and . . . the United States. China recently acted to remove its ban on HIV-positive visitors because it feared embarrassment ahead of the Olympics. But America’s ban remains.
It seems unthinkable that the country that has been the most generous in helping people with HIV should legally ban all non-Americans who are HIV-positive. But it’s true: The leading center of public and private HIV research discriminates against those with HIV.
HIV is the only medical condition permanently designated in law — in the Immigration and Nationality Act — as grounds for inadmissibility to the United States. Even leprosy and tuberculosis are left to the discretion of the secretary of health and human services.
I am sure that last fall when we had our September Forum (see our whole category) in Hagerstown, MD about refugee resettlement that the State Department representatives told us the ban on refugees with HIV had been lifted by the Clinton administration. Here is a post in which I mentioned the supposed lifting of the ban. Now I’m wondering if it isn’t really lifted but just ignored by those admitting refugees to the US.
By the way, one of the flaws in Sullivan’s argument involves who pays for HIV treatment of immigrants. He says they should be required to carry private health insurance. That is not going to happen with refugees who get medical care gratus from local governments.
Take a look at the problems some county health departments are having with the cost of health treatment for refugees. Ft. Wayne, IN (Allen County) comes immediately to mind.
Would treating HIV like any other medical condition cost the United States if such visitors or immigrants at some point became public dependents? It’s possible — but all legal immigrants and their sponsors are required to prove that they can provide their own health insurance for at least 10 years after being admitted. Making private health insurance a condition of visiting or immigrating with HIV prevents any serious government costs, and the tax dollars that would be contributed by many of the otherwise qualified immigrants would be a net gain for the government — by some estimates, in the tens of millions of dollars.
Sullivan does mention that immigrants with all other diseases including leprosy and tuberculosis are not legally banned. A Somali refugee died of TB in a Tyson’s meatpacking plant in Emporia, KS last year—funny you never heard that reported in the mainstream media.
I would really like to know what is the truth about refugees with HIV.
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