As HIV travel ban ends, gay group welcomes first visitors

Mon. January 4, 2010 12:00 AM by

Gay group Immigration Equality will welcome two men from the Netherlands on Monday as the U.S. officially ends its travel restrictions on HIV-positive people.

Clemens Ruland and Hugo Bausch will arrive in New York City just hours after the United States ends its 22-year-old policy that banned HIV-positive people from entering the country. The couple will visit old friends, shop and enjoy the city during a one week stay.

Steve Ralls, communications director for Immigration Equality, a group that advocates on behalf of GLBT immigrants, told On Top Magazine that the men are believed to be the first to visit under the new policy.

Ruland, 45, works with young people in the criminal system. He was infected in New York by an ex-lover and diagnosed HIV-positive in 1997. Anti Retroviral Therapy has kept his virus load undetectable. He returned to visit the U.S. once in 2005, but said he feared being detained. Bausch, 50, an illustrator, is HIV-negative.

The Dutch AIDS service organization SOAAIDS is behind the visit. Ruland entered a poem into the group's essay contest to win the couple's passage to New York City.

The Bush administration approved the end of the travel ban in June 2008, but failed to implement the regulatory changes to end the restrictions. President Obama called the travel ban a "decision rooted in fear rather than fact" in announcing the policy's January 4, 2010 end.

Ruland's winning poem:
No more lies
No more pretending
No more hiding
In the crevices of exclusion
to the land
where once lay my destiny
in one viral load
Free I am
Free to travel
To hug, share, love
And once more be united
Alive and proud
I turn to you, America
America, here I come
Come as I am

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine