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Obama Ends HIV Travel Ban

October 30, 2009
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courtesy of freefoto.com

For the past 22 years, the United States has barred people living with HIV from entering the country. Of course, in 1987, when the ban was instituted, HIV had already entered the country (some scientists believe the virus arrived as early as the 1960s). So it’s doubtful that the ban has had any measurable effect on the spread of HIV in the US. And it certainly has not improved our image abroad, where we preach that those living with HIV and AIDS should be treated the same as anyone else. The only thing the ban has done is enrage HIV advocates and public health experts and prevent AIDS conference organizers from holding their meetings here. In short, the ban has been an outrage and an embarrassment.

So it is with great pleasure that I can now report the ban will end in January 2010.

In a speech this morning, President Obama announced that his administration will publish a rule on Monday ending the ban. That rule will go into effect in January 2010.

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.

Kudos, Mr. President. And may I say, it’s about time.

There is some excellent background information here.

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