Obama Lifts HIV Travel Ban

The White House has lifted the HIV travel ban, and the United States is no longer included in the list of only seven countries worldwide that bar HIV-positive persons from obtaining visas for entry.  The Washington Post reports that the President described the 22 year-old ban as being "rooted in fear rather than fact" and announced the end of the rule-making process lifting the ban.

The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act
of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules,
which have been under development more more than a year. "We are
finishing the job," the president said, according to the Post.

The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and
will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by
the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.

The ban first came about at a time when stigma, discrimination and lack of knowledge of HIV and AIDS were prevalent.  According to the Post:

[The] ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.

Earlier attempts to overturn the ban were foiled by conservative groups and members of Congress.  In 1993, the ban was added to immigration laws. It was finally overturned as part of the passage of a bill reauthorizing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Publication of the new rules is the last step in this process

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  • borderjumpers

    Just FYI we are travel blogging from Africa (currently in Uganda) at our website called Border Jumpers or http://www.borderjumpers.org (via twitter @borderjumping).

    Here is a post we wrote about the United States lifting the travel ban on people with HIV:

    We might be naïve (and grossly uninformed), but we didn’t realize until we just opened the New York Times website that the United States had a ban on letting HIV-positive people travel or immigrate to the United States. In place for 22 years, the ban was enacted at the height of the AIDS epidemic when fear overruled science. Today, thankfully, some (but by no means all) of the stigma of HIV/AIDS has disappeared.

    But the fact that the ban was ever in place is disturbing and confusing, especially as we write this from Nairobi, Kenya, a place where over seven percent of the adult population is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The local newspapers classified ads advertise singles looking for love, who freely—and without shame—announce their HIV positive status.

    We are also encouraged on the ground by the growing widespread availability of free condoms, the AIDS awareness/education campaigns, and growing number of clinics and medical facilities for sex workers. For Danielle, it is a remarkable improvement from her last visit to Kenya, when the media didn’t report as widely about the disease. Still, the crisis continues to be widespread here–and the effects on farming, on the workforce, and on households is alarming.

    All our best, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack