Obama Lifts HIV Ban, Provides Hope for a Better World

Posted on 31. Oct, 2009 by in Uncategorized

There are some days when your government re-instills your faith in its workings. There are some days when it makes you feel proud to be an American citizen. Yesterday was one of those days.

Because yesterday, President Obama announced he was lifting the ban on HIV-positive visitors, tourists and immigrants. It will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, November 2 and take effect 60 days later (after its required waiting period).

Here is an excerpt of Obama’s remarks on the lifting, via Andrew Sullivan:

We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.

Notice in the Obama rhetoric his tasking the U.S. with accountability (after all, the U.S. was one of only seven countries with such bans). “We need to act like it.” And now, they are.

Obama has been criticized for being slow to make good on his election promises–and perhaps rightly so. It looks that his administrative ball is now beginning to roll, with the Health Care debate reaching a crescendo and the Afghanistan strategy progressing in a way the public can follow, but more importantly, this step.

Maybe this will give pause to the critics. Because lifting this ban is more than ending a restriction that is, as Obama said, “rooted in fear.” It’s a step toward breaking down the walls that divide and separate human beings from other human beings. As Andrew Sullivan, a gay, non-U.S. citizen blogger for the The Atlantic, so eloquently wrote:

For me, it is the end of 16 years of profound insecurity. Like many others, my application for permanent residence and citizenship can go forward. And I will be able to see my family again in England and know that my HIV will not force me to choose between my husband and the country I have come to call my home. There is no price to be put on that.

And, in another post:

I know I should be totally delirious at the news that I’ve been waiting for and fighting for for more than a decade. But like most huge anticipated moments, this one doesn’t quite have the immediate punch. You feel numb and unreal. You’ve spent so long steeling yourself against disappointment you barely know what it is to celebrate.

It seems that America has long since championed itself as the watch-dog of the world and the beacon of democracy that all countries should aim to follow. It certainly is not either of those things with perfect success, and definitely not either of them all of the time. But yesterday, as you feel in Sullivan’s writing, America became better.

If presidencies, like lifetimes, are measured by moments that make you remember your exact spot when they happened, this is a pencil mark on the wall dated “10/30/09”. On a misty Saturday morning, I sat in a stuffy computer lab on my alma mater’s campus at Bard College, and I read that the United States was to become a bit more inclusive than ex. Reading this, I felt a small sense of pride that progress was being made for human dignity: people with HIV entering the country would now be treated (rightly so) like they have an illness, not an affliction.

And an illness, like the close-minded view the ban promoted, can be treated–if not one day cured. As the Obama administration has now shown us.


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