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Gay HIV-positive actor denied U.S. visa (16325)

16325Health News2005-06-23

Gay HIV-positive actor denied U.S. visa

Gay Argentine actor and comedian Fernando Pena, who says he has had a visa for travel to the United States for his entire life, was recently denied a visa renewal by U.S. authorities because he is HIV-positive, reports the gay immigration group Immigration Equality. The denial of the visa renewal will prevent Pena from acting and performing in the United States. He had recently performed in Miami at the Latin American MTV Video Music Awards. It also prevented him from attending his brother's marriage in the country, according to Immigration Equality.

Congress in the 1990s, guided by antigay former U.S. senator Jesse Helms, passed a sweeping immigration law that prevents any HIV-positive person from entering the country. Although the discriminatory law is not uniformly enforced by customs agents, anyone who is known to be HIV-positive can be turned away at the border or denied a visa for entry. The law allows for special waivers to be issued by the U.S. government, but those are rarely granted. Nearly all other countries in the world allow entry--particularly for short visits--to HIV-positive travelers. The U.S. ban on HIV-positive visitors prevents international AIDS groups from holding conferences here because HIV-positive people would be unable to attend.

Pena says he was forced to endure a long waiting process consisting of several interrogations before he was ultimately denied entry into the United States. He says he is now meeting with lawyers and human rights organizations to determine his next steps.

According to Victoria Neilson, legal director at Immigration Equality, U.S. immigration policy with respect to HIV-positive persons is "one of the worst among all developed nations. Not only are the laws discriminatory, they are also ineffective in terms of prevention. The United States should be the world leader in fighting the HIV epidemic; instead we continue to perpetuate stigma and misinformation about how HIV is transmitted."

For more information about Immigration Equality go online to

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