Obama Lifts Travel Ban On HIV+ People

US President Obama announced the end of a 22-year ban on travel to the United States by people who had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS,  fulfilling a promise he made to gay
obama lifts travel ban on hiv people - India TV
PTI November 01, 2009 8:37 IST

US President Obama announced the end of a 22-year ban on travel to the United States by people who had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS,  fulfilling a promise he made to gay advocates and acting to eliminate a restriction he said was “rooted in fear rather than fact”, New York Times reported. 

At a White House ceremony, Obama announced that a rule canceling the ban would be published on Monday and would take effect after a routine 60-day waiting period. The president had promised to end the ban before the end of the year. 

“If we want to be a global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it,” Obama said. “Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat.” The US is one of only about a dozen countries that bar people who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 

President George Bush started the process last year when he signed legislation, passed by Congress in July 2008, that repealed the statute on which the ban was based. But the ban remained in effect. 

It was enacted in 1987 at a time of widespread fear that HIV could be transmitted by physical or respiratory contact. The ban was further strengthened by Congress in 1993 as an amendment offered by senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina. 

Because of the restriction, no major international conference on the AIDS epidemic has been held in the US since 1990. Public health officials here have long said there was no scientific or medical basis for the ban. 

Under the ban, US health authorities have been required to list HIV infection as a “communicable disease of public health significance”. Under immigration law, most foreigners with such a disease cannot travel to the United States. The ban covered both visiting tourists and foreigners seeking to live in this country. 

Once the ban is lifted, foreigners applying to become residents in the United States will no longer be required to take a test for AIDS. 

In practice, the ban particularly affected tourists and gay men. Waivers were available, but the procedure for tourists and other short-term visitors who were HIV positive was so complicated that many concluded it was not worth it. 

For foreigners hoping to immigrate, waivers were available for people who were in a heterosexual marriage, but not for gay couples. Gay advocates said the ban had led to painful separations in families with HIV-positive members that came to live in this country, and had discouraged adoptions of children with the virus. 

International health officials said lifting the ban would end a much-criticized inconsistency in United States health policy, with Washington playing a leading role in AIDS prevention in Africa and other countries with severe epidemics, but preserving restrictions that in practice prevented international AIDS researchers and activists from gathering at conferences here.

 
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