09/10/2012 03:26 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: HIV-Positive Deportations

Deportation of HIV-positive foreigners is still a common occurrence in too many countries.

Imagine this: You have lived 10, 15, maybe 20 years in a foreign country. Your life partner is with you. Your job is here. All your friends are here with you. You bought an apartment, a house, maybe. Maybe you have uprooted yourself completely and don't maintain contact with your home country. You might have been invited to come by your adopted home because of your work skills.

Because of the patriarchal or racist or xenophobic laws in the new country, you cannot get a passport. Or because there are no gay marriage laws, or other obstacles, you can never become a full citizen. But you've managed to adapt and lead a fulfilling life.

Now imagine you develop a cold. You go to the hospital, and the doctors find you are HIV-positive. They call the national CDC, your family and/or relatives (not a joke!), and then the police. You have exactly seven days to leave the country or be expelled by force! You can't get your things in order fast enough, and by the end of the week, a police patrol car shows up at your house and escorts you to the airport, where you are put on a plane. A note is made in your records (and passport) that as an HIV-positive person, you can never return.

You think that's fiction? Think again. This happens every day on this planet. According to UNAIDS, there are still 49 countries (50 if you include Taiwan) that impose restrictions on the entry, stay, and residence of people living with HIV based on their HIV status. Not all countries are as cruel as the example above, but plenty of them will insist on getting rid of you as fast as possible: 22 countries deport HIV positive foreigners within days. (Full list.)

The question is why they do it. The surprising answer is that it's not just about money.

By the way national health insurances act, you would think the cost of giving medicine to HIV-positive foreigners would be the main reason for these absurd laws, but that's not the case. Most people pay for their own insurance anyway. Countries with good insurance programs or free health care are in fact more welcoming to HIV-positive foreigners. Money really is not the reason; after all, regulations don't force foreigners with cancer to leave, even though cancer treatment also imposes a heavy financial burden on the health-care system.

The real reason is pure and simple xenophobia, and often homophobia: These evil (often "evil, gay") foreigners brought immorality into the country. Evidence? Their HIV infection. "Why should we support them?" asks a bigoted, uneducated public. In closed, xenophobic societies "foreigner" is synonymous with "outsider," regardless of the exact legal status. The gay community of the U.S. West coast, for example, has many links to the countries of the Pacific rim. Yet Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore are some of the countries that still keep xenophobic HIV laws on their books. They are in such illustrious company as Armenia, Iraq, Mongolia, North Korea, Oman, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Branding people as "undesirable" based on their health status is outrageous. Health authorities need to do more to educate the public. Voters need to understand that someone who has built a life in their country, pays taxes, and supports the community with work and family is playing a valuable part that deserves to be recognized. Leaving people in legal limbo because they don't share certain DNA, blood type, or racial profile is not acceptable.

Naturalization laws in these countries need to change. The blood-ties laws of many racially biased countries are discriminatory, unfair, and antiquated. Basing citizenship on paternal blood relationship, as many Asian countries do, is unfair to women and perpetuates a racial superiority myth. Such laws have no place in the global world of the 21st century.

The naturalization issue is not limited to HIV. I recently co-financed a movie that highlights the problems of gay marriage and deportation in America. However, gay marriage is foremost a legal issue. Destroying someone's life because he or she has a virus in his or her blood stream is simply inhuman.

Please support UNAIDS' efforts to end discrimination against HIV positive people in all countries worldwide.