Kerry Provisions on Vaccines, Anti-Discrimination Included in PEPFAR
Foreign Relations Committee Passes New Funding on Global AIDS, Lifts HIV Travel Ban
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) welcomed the inclusion of two of his provisions in the PEPFAR package that passed the Foreign Relations Committee today. One Kerry provision would lift the travel ban on people with HIV entering the United States. The other provision accepted in the manager's package would bolster America's commitment to producing life-saving vaccines. Kerry worked with Senator Frist in 2002 on the comprehensive AIDS bill that would become PEFAR. According to the UN, at least 33 million people have HIV/AIDS worldwide
"We know the urgency of this fight and the effectiveness of PEPFAR, and today we took a step forward in fighting this disease smarter, harder and with greater fairness and common sense than ever before," said Kerry. "The inclusion of these reforms will end a discriminatory law that stigmatizes people with HIV, while putting us on a path to save millions of lives with the best vaccines available."
Travel Ban Repeal
Since 1993, the INA has designated HIV as grounds for inadmissibility to the U.S. A cumbersome waiver option is available to those wishing to enter this country, but the process is incredibly restrictive. These obstacles result in an almost wholesale rejection of any HIV positive individual from the United States, no matter their reason for entry. Kerry introduced legislation last year that would repeal the outdated, misguided provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which bars HIV positive individuals from entering the United States, including HIV positive doctors and experts, as well as refugees seeking asylum
What's more, under new regulations admission judgments are left to the discretion of the consular officers who likely do not have the medical knowledge to make these decisions. No guidelines are given on how to make these determinations and there is no appeal process whatsoever. If an HIV positive individual is given asylum in the United States, they are not allowed to obtain a green card or become a U.S. citizen - even if their asylum was given because of their HIV status.
Advanced Market Commitments for Vaccines
Kerry's other amendment would promote participation by the United States in negotiations on Advanced Market Commitments (AMC) to develop key vaccines, and strengthen efforts to provide technical assistance for the creation of vaccines in developing countries. AMCs offer a powerful means to develop new vaccines against diseases that currently kill millions of people in developing countries. A pneumococcal vaccine is estimated to prevent up to an estimated 5.4 million childhood deaths by 2030 and a pilot AMC has already been funded among the United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, Russia, Canada and the Gates Foundation to develop a vaccine.