The definition of criminal offenses, the selective implementation of the law, and the resulting stereotypes generate a self-enforcing loop of discrimination and exclusion to the detriment of all. The exclusion of so many legitimate voices from this year’s AIDS conference is just one example.
We will only be able to get people into treatment early, and retain them in treatment, if we finally move from rhetoric to real action on HIV and human rights.
No Global Fund, no international forums will be able to save us from our own trouble until we, ourselves, get to work, until we start to mobilize, until we take our destiny into our hands.
The US immigration rules place restrictions on the ability of sex workers and people who use drugs to enter the country. These rules are but one example of the many ways in which national and international laws, regulations and policies are impacting on the HIV vulnerability of most at-risk groups across the world.
For the past 10 years I’ve been open about my HIV status and my drug use history. I can’t lie about these things anymore. I just don’t do that. Now, it’s quite possible that my honesty will cost me a US visa.
To be at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC would mean a lot to me. I would’ve wanted to share our issues with the delegates and I’m sorry that the US immigration policy restricts entry into the country for people like me.
In July, Washington, D.C. will host a conference on HIV/AIDS, where participants will gather to discuss to the latest science and policy of HIV treatment and prevention. Yet the country’s immigration policy denies entry to those disproportionately affected by the pandemic—people dependent on drugs—because of their medical condition.
Drug users and sex workers represent the majority of people living with HIV in many countries, and are among the most at-risk of infection everywhere. The irony of allowing people living with HIV to the conference while refusing those likeliest to be—or become—infected has not been lost on everyone.