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President Obama Ends HIV Travel Ban

President Obama signs the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009

President Barack Obama on rescinding the travel ban into the United States for people suffering from HIV/AIDS:

A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test. And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.

And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.

Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic reacts:

This is a real achievement. It will endure as a small but critical part of this administration’s legacy on HIV and civil rights and human dignity. It really is change – and it took Obama to finish it off. Many of us will remember it for the rest of our lives.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


One comment for “President Obama Ends HIV Travel Ban”

  • 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

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