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Obama Moves to End 22-Year-Old Restriction on Travelers with HIV/AIDS Entering US
photo provided by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
President Barak Obama
On October 30, President Barack Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, to be finalized on November 2 and take effect just after the beginning of 2010, extending the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and eliminating a ban, instituted in 1987, against people with HIV/AIDS entering and traveling within the United States.

The President announced, "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 [with] 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."

The ban had complicated the adoption of foreign children with HIV; prevented refugees, tourists, and students from entering and traveling within the country; and effectively put a stop to holding any major international conferences on AIDS here, as HIV-positive researchers and activists could have been stopped at the border and barred from entering the country.

President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Michael Weinstein applauded President Obama's action, saying, "President Obama deserves praise for lifting the 22-year-old ban on travel to the U.S. by HIV-infected people or those living with AIDS. This ban only served to reinforce stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS, and its repeal is long overdue. The travel ban was an enormous black eye on U.S. humanitarian efforts such as PEFAR, the US's widely respected global AIDS program. With the repeal of this ban, major international AIDS conferences may once again be held here in this country, something that has not happened throughout the ban."

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