amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Welcomes Lifting of U.S. Ban on HIV-Positive Visitors and Immigrants


UPDATE January 7, 2010—For the first time since 1987, the U.S. is now freely admitting HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants. The end of the longstanding U.S. travel ban came definitively with the arrival in New York of an HIV-positive man from Holland on January 7.  Removal of the ban took effect on January 4.

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


NEW YORK, October 30, 2009—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, today applauded the announcement by President Obama that the federal government would finally lift the U.S. ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants, which has been in place since 1987.

The President’s announcement came during a signing ceremony at the White House for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act and was the culmination of an extensive federal review process instituted by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in late June 2009.`

“amfAR has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts to remove the U.S. government’s ban on HIV-positive visitors,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “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.”

Additionally, Frost said the repeal of the ban would bolster the U.S.’s candidacy as a host country for future HIV/AIDS research conferences.

“The International AIDS Society said it wouldn’t even consider convening 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 international HIV/AIDS-related conferences here in the future, and restoring the U.S.’s place as a leader in the eyes of the world’s HIV/AIDS research community.”

amfAR first called for the repeal of the ban as early as 1991, when the Foundation opened its public policy office in Washington, D.C., and made lifting the travel and immigration ban for HIV-positive persons one of its main legislative priorities. Since then, members of the amfAR staff and 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 to Health and Human Services (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,” chaired by Susan Blumenthal, M.D., amfAR’s Senior Policy and Medical Advisor and former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General. The meeting brought together key leaders in the HIV/AIDS research, advocacy, and public policy 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 of “public health significance” that prevented visitors and immigrants from entering the United States.

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.

Until today’s announcement, the U.S. was one of only 7 countries with laws that bar entry of people with HIV.

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.