AIDS devastated the LGBT community, threatening health and taking lives. The fear and stigma of AIDS led to the HIV travel ban, a homophobic ban on all HIV-positive travelers and immigrants trying to enter the United States. For ever two decades, this ban separated LGBT individuals and families, many of whom were never able to see their loved ones again.
Yet our community survived. We survived the peak of the AIDS crisis. We survived the HIV travel ban, too.
On January 4, 2010, the ban was finally lifted, ending a long era of discrimination against LGBT immigrants. Our country left the company of nations like Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan, all notorious for denying human rights to LGBT citizens.
After over a decade of working with HIV-positive immigrants, I was finally able to tell my clients, “You are no longer ineligible for a green card simply because of your HIV status.” I also remembered my HIV-positive clients that did not outlive the ban and never had the chance to be reunited with their families.
On World AIDS Day, I think of all the LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants who face challenges in our immigration system because of who they are and whom they love.
Today, I am proud to work for Immigration Equality and proud to wear the red ribbon to honor the HIV-positive community, past and present. We promise to keep fighting for justice.
Pamela P. Denzer
Asylum Program Supervisor