When HIV-positive Winnie Sseruma was invited to speak on the subject at the United Nations in New York last June, she never expected that her condition would prevent her from obtaining a visa, CNN reported.
HIV positive Winnie Sseruma was repeatedly questioned before being allowed into the United States.
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Winnie Sseruma has been living with the disease for over 20 years. Preparing for her trip, UK-based Winnie discovered that the United States was one of 70 countries worldwide that either banned or restricted inbound travel for people with HIV.
"I was told I needed to come to the U.S. embassy for an interview and bring a doctor's letter stating I was fit to travel," Sseruma, HIV coordinator for charity Christian Aid, told CNN.
"At first, the embassy told me that the first available appointment for my interview would be at a date past the UN High-level Meeting I was meant to attend."
Only when the UN intervened on Sseruma's behalf was she granted an earlier interview date.
Sseruma was relieved when she finally received her visa on time. But the hurdles were far from over. At the airport in New York, Sseruma was detained twice for further questioning.
"It was so humiliating," Sseruma said. "The immigration officers were asking me very personal questions about my health."
A month after Sseruma's ordeal, the U.S. Senate passed the re-authorization of President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), including an amendment to the ban on travel and immigration for HIV-positive non-citizens.
But the United States travel ban still remains in effect, and will continue to be the law until the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) modifies its regulations. Fifty-eight Members of Congress have sent a letter to the HHS, urging them to take action.