[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] is preparing to implement a new regulation [text; fact sheet] that relaxes restrictions on issuing US visas to HIV-positive visitors. The regulation allows HIV-positive foreigners seeking to visit the US to receive temporary, non-immigrant visas without undergoing an individualized waiver process. In announcing the change [DHS press release], Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] said the regulation "significantly improves the opportunities for individuals seeking to visit the US who were previously inadmissible because of an HIV infection" while "while maintaining a high level of security at our borders." The regulation will allow some HIV-positive applicants to receive visas within one day, rather than waiting an average of 18 days for processing. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.
Thirteen nations ban the entry of most HIV-positive individuals, as the US has since 1987. In July, President Bush signed legislation [PDF text; White House fact sheet] reauthorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) [official website] and removing a statutory restriction on issuing visas to HIV-positive foreigners. A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation [PDF text] continues to classify HIV as a "communicable disease of public health significance" [USCIS backgrounder], making waivers necessary for HIV-positive visa applicants until this week's DHS action. The Gay Men's Health Crisis [advocacy website] and other groups have called on HHS [press release] to remove HIV from that classification.