amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Welcomes Steps to Lift U.S. Ban on HIV-Positive Visitors


Contact:  Cub Barrett, Manager, Program Communications, (212) 806-1602,


NEW YORK, July 1, 2009—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, today applauded the announcement by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that indicated that the federal government had taken concrete steps to lift the United States’ ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants, which has been in place since 1987.

OMB announced Friday that it had completed a review of the proposed regulation that would lift the ban. The proposal will now be published in the Federal Register and will be available for a 45-day period of public comment before the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues its final regulation.

“amfAR has long advocated that the U.S. government lift the ban on HIV-positive visitors,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We’re thrilled that the Obama Administration has listened to science, reason, and fairness and has started preliminary and promising efforts to lift the ban. This signals that the Administration is committed to adopting more evidence-based policies when confronting the AIDS epidemic and in developing a comprehensive national AIDS strategy.”

Additionally, Frost said the repeal of the ban would bolster the United States’ reputation as a host country for future HIV/AIDS research conferences.

“The International AIDS Society said it wouldn’t even consider holding the International AIDS Conference in 2012 in Washington, D.C., unless the U.S. lifted the travel ban,” Frost said. “Removing the ban opens the door to hosting more significant conferences here in the future, and restoring the United States’ place in the eyes of the world’s research community.”

amfAR officially called for the repeal of the ban as early as 1991, when the Foundation opened its public policy office in Washington, DC, and established the lifting of the ban as one of its main legislative priorities. Since then, members of the amfAR management team and the board of trustees have repeatedly pushed for the ban’s repeal, most recently in a letter written by Frost and amfAR Chairman of the Board Kenneth Cole sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Lifting the ban was also discussed at the May 2009 Capitol Hill conference “Future Directions in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS,” which brought together key leaders in the HIV/AIDS research and advocacy communities and was co-sponsored by amfAR and Research!America.

Since 1987, the United States has banned HIV-positive visitors and immigrants from the country after Congress directed HHS to add HIV to the list of medical conditions banning visitors and immigrants to the United States. Those visitors living with HIV were deemed to have a “communicable disease of public health significance.”

In 1991, the HHS secretary recommended removing HIV from the list of those communicable diseases—which also included tuberculosis and syphilis, among others—but that proposal was dropped due to opposition from Congress. In 1993, Congress specified that HIV infection was grounds for inadmissibility, thereby revoking the secretary’s ability to make a public health determination about the disease.

The U.S. is one of only nine countries with laws restricting entry by people with HIV. Other countries that still maintain the restriction include Brunei, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and China, although Chinese officials have said that China will ease its restrictions some time this year.

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.