Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Andrew Sullivan: The HIV Travel Ban Is Repealed

Something huge happened today but few of you might know - or care. Nevertheless, for someone who has worked with hundreds of HIV positive individuals - straight and gay - who met every possible requirement to gain immigration rights in the United States EXCEPT for the fact that they were HIV+, this is a victory long time coming.

Tonight I will share this with you: Political pundit Andrew Sullivan (pictured) has posted the following on his site (The Daily Dish). I'm not HIV positive so I'll let him do the talking. After all, he also played big part in reaching this point. I hope he does not mind that I've lifted the whole post from his site. I just thought that it best reflected the moment!

I'm not usually speechless but I'm ecstatic to report that the Senate just passed PEPFAR without the Sessions amendment, and Senator Biden, who managed the bill, just said they will probably avoid a conference with the House and send the bill forthwith to the president's desk. Barring some unforeseen event, the HIV Travel Ban - a relic of the days when HIV was a source of fear and stigma and terror - is finally over.

Obviously, the bigger achievement in PEPFAR is the funding for continued help for those with HIV and AIDS in the developing world - people whose plight is unimaginably worse than mine or so many others trapped by this HIV law. Bush's legacy in this is one for which he is rightly proud. But for those of us who have long dreamed of becoming Americans, and have been prevented by 1993 law from even being able to enter or leave the US without waivers or fear or humiliation, this is a massive burden lifted.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's one of the happiest days of my whole life. For two and a half decades, I have longed to be a citizen of the country I love and have made my home. I now can. There is no greater feeling.

Thanks go to many, many people, chiefly Senators Kerry and Smith, who made this a bipartisan priority. Gordon Smith proved how Republicans can reach out to those in genuine need, even if some are gay. All of us with HIV and with spouses or loved ones with the virus are in his debt. But also: Rob Epplin and Alex Nunez, Smith's and Kerry's amazing staffers, who made this possible. The Human Rights Campaign came through too, with insistent, diligent lobbying and a last-minute member email blitz. Immigration Equality, the group that does all the heavy lifting on LGBT and HIV immigration issues, were indispensable. Thanks, Rachel and Adam in particular. A word too to Senators Lugar and Biden, who shepherded the bill forward. I'm grateful too for those behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans, who helped enormously: Carl Schmid and Jeff Trandahl, in particular. I will not forget Yuval Levin's support. And a word to my friend, David Kuo, who helped me through some of the bleakest days I experienced because of this law. My closest friends know who they are and they know what they've done.

I've lived with this awful sense of insecurity, of fear of leaving the country, of visiting my family, of the lingering sense that my virus rendered me potentially deportable, that any roots I put down might be dug up suddenly one day - for fifteen years. The lifting of this threat - the sense that I now have a home I know will be secure for me and my husband - is indescribable.

And thank you, too, especially. Dish readers really helped - emailing your Senators and telling your stories. This blog can be really draining and a little exasperating. But the sense of support I've gotten these past few weeks has been amazing. It really is like family. And now you've made it possible to make an honest American out of me. Maybe you'll regret it soon enough.

But you're stuck with me now.

I'm gonna celebrate now, so no promises on the timing of my next post.

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