US President Donald J Trump signed the Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” on Friday, 27 January 2017. Under this proposed Order, all refugee admissions are suspended for 120 days, and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – are blocked from entering the US for 90 days. This Order essentially legalizes stigma of an entire population, striking at the core of human rights and putting public health at risk.
The International AIDS Society (IAS) urgently calls on President Trump to reconsider and retract this Executive Order. As an organization made up of scientists, clinicians and advocates, the IAS has seen first-hand that discrimination of any kind is inconsistent with sound public health approaches.
Forced migration as a result of war or other humanitarian disaster often places migrants in conditions that increase their vulnerability to HIV and other infectious diseases, malnutrition and violence. Due to the civil war in Syria, for example, millions of people have fled their homes; many now live in refugee camps or crowded urban areas, where the international community struggles to provide essential health, food and social services. Apart from bringing untold harm to refugees, the health and social consequences of housing millions of vulnerable people in overcrowded, underserved settings also potentially increases health risks to the communities that host refugees.
In addition, the Executive Order is already undermining the scientific community’s ability to continue our important work, from which we all depend for the development of scientific health advancements. For the medical and scientific community, the openness between countries affords opportunities for research collaboration. The Executive Order will prevent or impede scientists from travelling as needed for work based in the US.
“This order inappropriately regulates and punishes the most vulnerable people – people who we must protect,” IAS President Linda-Gail Bekker said. “A functional public health system is built on a human rights approach. President Trump’s Executive Order is not based on scientific fact, and the AIDS community has seen the destructive and harmful effects these discriminatory policies have on health outcomes for individual people.”
IAS Executive Director Owen Ryan added: “Stigma and exclusion are inconsistent with sound public health and should never be the basis for immigration policy. When the 22-year US travel ban was lifted, it simultaneously helped lift the stigma associated with HIV, easing human suffering and public health burdens associated with the epidemic. This is the model we demand in order to ensure access to essential health services for all people.”