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HIV+ Canadian Stopped At The Border

Jim Burroway

March 31st, 2008

The United States is one of only thirteen countries in the world which bans travelers with HIV from entering the country. This puts the U.S. in the distinguished company of Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Moldova, Russia, Armenia, and South Korea.

Nice company. And America’s offensive enforcement of that ban mirrors what one might expect from any one of those other twelve:

The Surrey, B.C., man was on his way to Bellingham, Wash., for the Remembrance Day long weekend last November to shop, with the Canadian dollar trading at about $1.07 against the greenback. After lining up for four hours to reach the U.S. customs booth, he was asked where he worked.

“I said I was on disability. He said what’s my disability. I said I have HIV,” said the 47-year-old, who was diagnosed in 1989.

The customs officer told him he needed a special visa waiver to enter the country, even though Canadians do not require a visa to travel to the United States.

“He hauled me into a backroom. … He put on a set of rubber gloves to hold each of my fingers. Nobody else wore rubber gloves. Then he fingerprinted me, photographed me, ran me through the FBI’s most-wanted list and told me to go back to Canada and not return until I came back with a waiver,” Mr. Rooney said. “I felt like I was being treated like a terrorist.”

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a bill sponsored by Sen. John Kerry to lift the travel ban soon. Then maybe the U.S. can join the community of civilized nations. Like Canada.

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