Friday, March 14, 2008

Jesse, You've Escaped Some Bad News: PWAs Can Travel Again

You Are Now Free to Roam About the Country
It has been over 21 years since HIV+ people were banned from traveling to our country. But President Bush needs a "legacy." PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and a pet project of GWB's) needs to continue its funding and Congress has attached some much-needed "compassionate conservatism" to its bill: overturning the ban on HIV-positive people traveling or migrating to the U.S.
This just in:

Federal government policy that for more than 20 years has barred nearly all travel and immigration into the United States by HIV-positive individuals may finally be overturned if legislation working its way through the Senate is approved by both houses of Congress and signed by President George W. Bush.In a press conference call convened on March 11 by the Human Rights Campaign, the Capitol Hill gay lobby, Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry and California Representative Barbara Lee, also a Democrat, spoke confidently about the prospects for such an amendment being added to the reauthorization of PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Bush's global HIV initiative.

Bush first voiced a willingness to revisit the HIV ban on World AIDS Day in 2006, but according to Kerry, when the issue was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for implementation, its proposed regulations actually represented a step backward.

The HIV ban dates to a 1987 amendment sponsored by the late North Carolina Republican and anti-gay foe Jesse Helms that directed the Public Health Service to add HIV to its list of "dangerous contagious diseases" that preclude people from entering the country. When immigration reform legislation in 1990 gave the Health Service the authority to revise its approach toward such medical conditions, it proposed ending the bar on those living with HIV. In a backlash in 1993, Congress approved a measure sponsored by Oklahoma Republican Don Nickles that codified the HIV immigration and travel ban.

The director of the Public Health Service has discretion to adjust its list of communicable diseases that preclude entry into the US based on specific epidemic conditions, but HIV is the only condition that always disqualifies a person from coming into the country. Though waivers can be granted, the conditions are onerous and usually prohibitive. Since 1993, the International AIDS Conference has refused to hold its meetings in the US, other LGBT and human rights organizations have boycotted, and of course numerous international gay gatherings, such as the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, have been hobbled by the ban.As of 2007, only 12 other nations-including China, Libya, and Saudi Arabia - have similar policies on the entry of people living with HIV. (Paul Shindler - Gay City News)

The height of hypocrisy: Jesse Helms Center

(From website): The Jesse Helms Center exists to promote the principles of free enterprise, representative democracy, traditional American values, and a strong national defense upon which former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms built his life and career. The work of the Helms Center involves education, historical preservation and public policy promotion through a variety of programs for students, scholars, and the general public.

Now that's scary!
Of course for almost two generations, Helms has stood for racist and homophobic bigotry:
From: FAIR (2001) :

One exception [to handling Helmms with kid gloves] was Washington Post columnist David Broder, whose August 29 column, headlined "Jesse Helms, White Racist," offered a glimpse into the public record that many other reporters were side-stepping. Broder offered a few examples of Helms' bigotry. There are many.

Ancient history? No. Helms remains unapologetic to this day. Forty years after the Smith campaign, Helms would win election against black opponent Harvey Gantt with another ad playing to racist white fear-- the so-called "white hands" ad, in which a white man's hands crumple a rejected job application while a voiceover intones, "You needed that job…but they had to give it to a minority." In columns, commentaries and pronouncements from the Senate floor, Helms sowed hatred and called names: The University of North Carolina was "the University of Negroes and Communists." (Capital Times, 11/22/94) Black civil rights activists were "Communists and sex perverts." (Copley News Service, 8/23/01) Of civil rights protests Helms wrote, "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights." (WRAL-TV commentary, 1963) He also wrote, "Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced." (New York Times, 2/8/81)Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality "degenerate," and homosexuals "weak, morally sick wretches." (Newsweek, 12/5/94) In a tirade highlighting his routine opposition to AIDS research funding, Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." (States News Service, 5/17/88)
When a caller to CNN's Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for "everything you've done to help keep down the niggers," Helms' response was to salute the camera and say, "Well, thank you, I think." (Wilmington Star-News, 9/16/95)

Like Mike Huakabee, Jesse Helms knew full well that AIDS was not tranferred by casual ccontact, but he knew that he could count on national hysteria to override that fact.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, for Helms), the former Senator is now in a private nursing home suffering from dementia.
Some would say that he suffered from this malady a very long time ago. But no, such hatred and bigotry becomes modified and rationalied under such a diagnosis. Helms' ideologies were always hateful and tinged with megalomania, but never completely insane.
Nations still enforcing the ban:
Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan.