HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) is warning that people living with HIV remain banned from travelling to the USA unless they have specifically applied for a visa to do so. Despite the recent introduction of an online visa waiver system (ESTA), people living with HIV still need to attend an interview at the American Embassy in London before they can travel legally.
THT’s telephone helpline, THT Direct, has recently received calls from people living with HIV who have tried to enter the country by using the online ESTA system, which is an electronic version of the visa waiver process. In some cases, these people have reached the US border only to be refused entry by immigration control and turned back to the UK, incurring substantial travel costs.
Following new legislation last year, the HIV entry ban is no longer law, but remains an administrative decision to be ruled on by the Department for Health and Human Services. As a result, the visit no longer has to be for a specific reason, and HIV should not be a bar to a visa being issued as long as the issuing official does not think that the visit may pose a danger to public health. THT continues to lobby for the complete lifting of the ban, which it includes as a priority in its policy document ’25 things the Government can do’.
Lisa Power, Head of Policy at THT, said: “While we are pleased that the US Government intend to revisit their entry regulations, it has not happened yet. People with HIV shouldn’t jump the gun by assuming it’s already okay to travel to the US without a special visa. Everyone entering the US is still required to state that they have no transmissible conditions, alongside not being a terrorist, a Nazi or a criminal. People who don’t get the special visa but then disclose their status on entry run the risk of being forcibly deported and banned from entering the US again, so please be aware of the rules before you fly.”
People living with HIV who would like further information on their right to travel internationally can contact THT Direct on 0845 1221 200 from 10am to 10pm weekdays and from 12pm to 6pm weekends, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.