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Immigrants with HIV May No Longer Seek Treatment if DHS Proposal Passes

WNYC reported that a Trump administration proposal on how it determines which immigrants are allowed to come into this country may result in fewer non-citizens who are currently in this country with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) continuing to seek treatment.


On September 21, 2018, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a proposed rule allowing the agency to prevent non-citizens from obtaining adjustment of status or seeking a change in their immigration status, citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), if “he or she is likely at any time to become a public charge” — that is, enroll to receive public benefits that, according to the DHS, is “above the applicable threshold(s) proposed by DHS, either in terms of dollar value or duration of receipt.” HIV-positive non-citizens in the U.S. are currently enrolled in Medicaid — which the DHS lists as a public benefit — in order to receive treatment, according to the WNYC article.


A study from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that, in 2017, one-third of those newly diagnosed with HIV were born outside the U.S. Of those with HIV born outside the U.S., 33% came from the Caribbean, 21% were from South America and 15% hailed from Mexico and Central America. The top five countries of birth of these newly diagnosed HIV cases were the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, and Haiti.


The city’s Health and Mental Hygiene Department released its HIV Surveillance Annual Report, which showed that 35.9% of those diagnosed with HIV are either Latino or Hispanic. Among males, Latino/Hispanic had the highest rate of HIV diagnoses at 38.2%; Latina/Hispanic women had a lower rate, with 27.2%, while, among transgender people, 42.9% of those with HIV were Latino/Hispanic. The TRANSgrendiendo Intercultural Collective, which provides services for Latino and Hispanic transgender men and women, said their clients will not get treatment, citing personal or financial reasons, the stigma associated with the disease and discrimination.


Dr. Jonathan Ross of the Montefiore Medical Group told WNYC that fewer HIV-infected immigrants will seek care because of the DHS proposal. “For someone who is living with HIV or is at risk of HIV, they might decide that getting health insurance would be detrimental to their immigration future and decide not to get insurance and not to get tested for HIV,” he said.


Although non-citizens have constitutional protections, they may lose their rights to medical benefits if the DHS rule becomes law. That means their applications for citizenship will be denied. If you are a non-citizen and are concerned about your rights and your ability to obtain public benefits, contact the experienced New York immigration lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP. We have two offices located in New York, New York and Metro Park, New Jersey. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form.

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