HIV-positive foreigners enter US after ban lifted - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

HIV-positive foreigners enter US after ban lifted

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NEW YORK (AP) — A Dutch citizen who arrived in New York on Thursday was among the first HIV-positive foreigners to enter the United States since the Obama administration repealed a 22-year-old travel ban that opponents said unfairly stigmatized people living with the virus.

Clemens Ruland, 45, of the Netherlands, arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport on a flight from Amsterdam with his partner, Hugo Bausch, 50, for a one-week vacation.

Ruland, a psychiatric nurse and AIDS activist who works with criminal and troubled youth, told reporters he was thrilled that HIV-positive travelers to the U.S. were being treated equally.

"I'm thrilled that justice is being done to level who should be able to travel without their HIV status known," said Ruland.

A Canadian citizen who traveled to Buffalo on Monday was the first person to cross the U.S. border on the day the repeal took effect, officials said.

"The U.S has joined a number of countries that do not pose any problems for having HIV-positive people in their country," said Ferdinand Dorsman at the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Manhattan. South Korea also eliminated travel restrictions this month for people with the HIV virus.

The U.S. ban kept out thousands of people over the years it was in place. Green card applicants were required to take an HIV test, said Steve Ralls, a spokesman for Immigration Equality, a New York-based legal advocacy group. He said the ban complicated the adoption of foreign children with HIV.

Opponents of the ban said it hurt public-health policy and was discriminatory.

In 1987, the Department of Health and Human Services added HIV to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the U.S. The department tried in 1991 to reverse its decision but was opposed by Congress, which two years later made HIV the only medical condition listed under immigration law as grounds for inadmissibility to the U.S.

"I see it as a victory for human rights," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's LGBT program who monitored Ruland's arrival through customs. "I'm very pleased with the decision by the Obama administration. Human Rights Watch has pleaded for this for years. So now we're very happy this change has come about."

He said there are other countries that ban HIV-positive visitors, "but they were not as strict as the U.S."


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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