Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were barred from entering the United States. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS had to apply for waivers to visit friends and family members before coming home. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were subjected to prejudicial treatment based on outdated views and disproven fears.
Today, the world changed.
Later today, a plane from The Netherlands will arrive at JFK Airport in New York and two passengers onboard will, for the first time in more than two decades, be able to step safely onto U.S. soil. The arrival of Clemens Ruland and Hugo Bausch will also signal the end of a shameful and discriminatory policy that has exacted a heavy price on our country’s reputation in the scientific community and kept countless individuals – both straight and gay – separated from their loved ones.
Beginning today, the United States’ decades-old HIV Travel and Immigration Ban will be a relic of the past, and the stigma and discrimination it has engendered around the world will, with any luck, begin to fade, too.
The ban, which was put into place due, in large part, to the efforts of former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, whose action resulted in an unconscionable policy of separation for families, spouses and children who were literally torn apart because of the law. It was, as President Obama remarked when announcing its demise, “a decision rooted in fear, rather than fact.”
Good riddance to a horrible reminder of America’s bigotry.