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Progress on effort to repeal ban on HIV-positive visitors Senate Dems push for vote before July 4 recess


Washington Blade - June 26, 2008

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Wednesday night that Democratic and Republican leaders appeared to have settled differences over a global AIDS relief bill that includes a provision repealing a 15-year-old law banning foreign visitors and immigrants with HIV from entering or seeking permanent residence in the U.S.

Both Reid and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who was among a half-dozen Republican senators who placed a hold on the AIDS relief bill, each issued statements on Wednesday saying a compromise had been reached over disagreements on the bill, known as PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

The disagreements pertained to the amount of funding for the AIDS relief program and whether or not at least 55 percent of the proposed $50 billion in funds should go to medical care and treatment. No serious opposition surfaced against the provision calling for repeal of the HIV visitor and immigrant ban.

Reid said he was hopeful that a vote on the revised bill could take place as soon as this week or at least before Congress begins its July 4 recess next week.

A bipartisan coalition of Democratic and Republican senators on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to attach the HIV visitors and immigrant ban repeal provision to the PEPFAR bill in March, when the committee voted to approve the bill.

Gay rights and AIDS activists were hopeful that attaching the repeal provision to the PEPFAR bill would greatly improve its chances of passing. Most of the nation's gay rights and AIDS advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, have lobbied Congress to repeal the ban.

The House of Representatives earlier this year passed a different version of PEPFAR that does not include a repeal provision for the HIV visitor and immigrant ban. House Democratic leaders have declined to say why they chose not to add the repeal provision to the bill but have said they would go along with the Senate version in a House-Senate conference committee.

If the legislation passes this year with the repeal provision intact and is signed by President Bush, who has endorsed it, it would mark the first major piece of legislation pushed by gay and AIDS groups to be enacted into law since the Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007.


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Information in this article was accurate in June 26, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.