HHS Removes AIDS as Disease of Public Health Significance

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services removes HIV as a disease of public health significance affecting foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has removed Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection from its definition of communicable disease of public health significance. Prior to this final rule, aliens with HIV infection were considered to have a communicable disease of public health significance and were thus inadmissible to the United States. While HIV infection is a serious health condition, the CDC has determined that it is not a communicable disease that is a significant public health risk for introduction, transmission, and spread to the U.S. population through casual contact.

As background, beginning in 1952, the language of the immigration statutes mandated that aliens “who are afflicted with any dangerous contagious disease” are ineligible to receive a visa and therefore are excluded from admission into the United States. In April 1986, prior to the recent developments in medicine and epidemiologic principles concerning HIV infection, HHS published a proposed rule to include acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) as a dangerous contagious disease. Also during this time, HHS separately published a proposed rule to substitute HIV infection for AIDS on the list of dangerous contagious diseases. While this proposed rule was pending public comment, Congress added HIV infection to the list of dangerous contagious diseases. Accordingly and immediately, aliens infected with HIV became ineligible to receive visas and were excluded from admission into the United States.

In recognition of both medical advances and CDC’s re-evaluation of HIV’s health impact on the U.S. population, in the summer of 2008, Congress amended the immigration statutes on HIV infection returning to the Secretary of HHS the discretion for determining whether HIV infection should remain in the definition of communicable disease of public health significance, discretion which the Secretary recently exercised by removing HIV infection from the definition of communicable disease of public health significance.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com.