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GMHC Strongly Condemns U.S. Customs & Border Patrol Policy on Families Affected by HIV

7.29.2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Cub Barrett | 212-367-1561 | cubb@gmhc.org
Krishna Stone I 212-367-1016 I KrishnaS@gmhc.org

New York, NY--Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) strongly condemns statements by a top U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) official who claimed this week that a migrant parent's HIV status would be enough of a reason to separate a child from that parent. Reports indicate that at least several children have been separated from their HIV-positive parent at the border because CBP guidance considers HIV a "communicable disease."

During testimony by Brian Hastings, the CBP's chief law enforcement officer, at a U.S. House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Thursday, he confirmed that CBP guidance indeed classifies HIV as a "communicable disease." That statement flies in the face of science, which tells us that HIV cannot be spread through casual contact. It also flies in the face of U.S. policy, which does not discriminate against immigrants based on their HIV status. GMHC is proud to have helped lead advocacy efforts that eventually led the Obama Administration to overturn the 22-year-old so-called "HIV travel ban" in 2010.

Under further questioning, Hastings claimed that he did not know where the CBP's HIV guidance came from, and other CBP and Administration officials have yet to clarify the guidance. He also confirmed that CBP is not separating parents from their kids if a mom or dad has the flu-a highly communicable disease.

"It is never right to separate immigrant children from their parents at the border, and we know that HIV status does not prevent parents from caring for their children," said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. "Furthermore, science tells us that HIV is not a communicable disease, and U.S. immigration policy since 2010 does not permit discrimination based on HIV status. For the U.S. Government to propagate false information about HIV, especially when it affects the lives of children and their families, is unacceptable and simply appalling. After the President's State of the Union address in January, during which he announced that his Administration wanted to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States by 2030, I wrote that I was cautiously optimistic about the plan. But since then, with increased attacks on the Affordable Care Act and other health coverage programs, heightened rhetoric inflaming the worst kind of prejudice against the most vulnerable populations, and a shocking lack of compassion for migrants and asylum seekers, I wonder what we will see next from this Administration. I urge our supporters to contact their elected officials to continue to press the CBP on this issue, and I call on the Administration to stop separating children from their parents at the border."

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 13,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health, and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state, and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit www.gmhc.org.