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In a meeting on Capitol Hill, the chief of US Border Control told members of Congress HIV status is enough to separate immigrant families.
Chief of law enforcement at the Border Patrol Brian Hastings made the comments on Thursday (25 July) in a hearing with the House Judiciary Committee.
Hastings had a tense exchange with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) about immigrants communicable diseases. It happens around the 4:25 mark.
False claims about HIV
Raskin asked Hastings about guidelines for separating children from their parents or guardians at the border.
‘If a mother or father has HIV positive status, is that alone enough to justify separation from their child?’ Raskin asked Hastings.
Hastings responded in the positive, describing HIV as a ‘communicable disease under the guidance’.
At this point, Raskin pushes back saying there are reports of immigrant family members being separated for this reason and pointing out HIV is not communicable ‘by ordinary contact’.
‘That’s the guidance that we follow,’ Hastings simply replied.
Hastings also could not say where this guidance came from and when Raskin said the flu is also communicable, Hastings said they would not separate family members on that basis.
Why is this harmful?
People with ‘communicable disease of public health significance’ are inadmissable from entering the US. HIV was removed from the list of communicable diseases in 2010.
July 2008 legislation reauthorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) removed the language which declared HIV as a communicable disease.
‘It is no longer applicable based on current medical knowledge and practice, scientific knowledge, and public health practice,’ the CDC explained. ‘HIV infection is not spread by casual contact, through the air, or from food or water.’
They also further stated HIV positive people do not pose a public health risk because of this.
Only certain bodily fluids can transmit HIV. The most common transmission of HIV in the US is through unprotected sex or needle or syringe sharing.
Border Patrol treating it as a communicable disease, however, perpetuates harmful myths about it.
Stigmatizing the immigrant population
Gay Star News reached out to Executive Director of Immigration Equality Aaron C. Morris about Hastings’ comments.
‘HIV has not been considered a communicable disease of public health significance since 2010 when advocates succeeded in ending the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban. Immediately after the ban was lifted, the CDC removed HIV from its list of communicable diseases,’ Morris said.
‘We are appalled to learn that the US government is again stigmatizing immigrants living with HIV. Separating children from their parents because they are HIV-positive deeply misunderstands basic public health and will irreparably harm families and children.’
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