HIV/AIDS: INS Lowers Barriers for HIV-Positive Refugees
In a "quiet, but major shift in U.S. policy," the Immigration and Naturalization Service has lowered economic barriers for refugees diagnosed with HIV, the Christian Science Monitor reports. In an initial test program, six U.S. cities known for their advanced HIV health and hospice networks -- Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and San Francisco -- were selected to host a small number of HIV-positive refugees. Under previous "longstanding" INS regulations, refugees living oversees had to prove their ability to pay for their own medical expenses prior to being naturalized, a rule that placed a particularly difficult burden on those with HIV. Bob Carey, vice president in charge of resettlement at New York's International Rescue Committee, said of the effort, "We think it's a compassionate move on the part of the U.S. government to assist refugees. It's a humanitarian response to a particularly vulnerable group of refugees." HIV-positive refugees still are deemed "inadmissable" to the United States, but refugees may apply to the attorney general for a waiver to this clause. According to the State Department, "many more" refugees now are expected to receive waivers. A State Department cable signed by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated, "HIV-positive persons determined by INS to meet the refugee definition now face a simpler waiver process and a greater likelihood of being admitted to the U.S." This year, for example, the government dramatically increased its annual quota for resettlement from Africa, from 2,000 to 18,000 people. However, only a "small minority" of this year's resettlement cases will be HIV-positive, according to the State Department. Under the new policy, an estimated 35 HIV-positive refugees have arrived in the United States, with another 50-70 cases currently in the repatriation process. The policy change now brings the United States in alignment with Nordic countries, which have "long accepted" HIV-positive refugees (Crawley, 6/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.