Court Stops Deportation of HIV-Positive Gay Man
The Board of Immigration Appeals has stopped the deportation of Jose Luis Ramirez, an HIV-positive gay immigrant convicted of solicitation for oral sex.
The order follows a motion by the Department of Homeland Security seeking to retract its earlier argument that the man's HIV status made his solicitation conviction a "particularly serious crime."
The department’s motion came shortly after Lambda Legal and the HIV Law Project submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, In the Matter of Ramirez, arguing that HIV transmission through oral sex is extremely rare, if not impossible in most circumstances.
Lambda Legal HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes says:
This is great news and an important step by a government agency in recognizing and correcting commonly held misconceptions about the transmissibility of HIV. More importantly, this is a wonderful outcome for Mr. Ramirez, whose HIV status will not be used as an excuse to compel his return to a place where he has been abused and persecuted.
In 2006, Ramirez was allowed to remain in the U.S. because of the repeated abuse he suffered at the hands of police officers in Mexico. Three years later, he became homeless when the nonprofit organization for which he worked went bankrupt and his long-term relationship ended. He was arrested and charged with solicitation after agreeing to perform oral sex on an undercover police officer in exchange for money. The officer later admitted that Ramirez had agreed to use condoms. Ramirez also asserted that he planned to inform the officer of his HIV status before performing oral sex.
Lambda Legal and the HIV Law Project’s brief was submitted on behalf of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association), the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
The brief cited a number of studies concluding that there have been no documented cases of HIV transmission as a result of an HIV-positive person performing oral sex and demonstrating the highly unlikely occurrence of such a transmission.
The brief also argued that the judge overestimated the lethality of HIV, which is more and more considered a chronic, manageable condition for people who learn of their status in a timely fashion and are provided with access to quality care and treatment.