Obama Lifts HIV Travel Ban

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In a widely hailed move, President Obama announced an end to the two-decades-old ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by HIV-positive individuals Friday.

Obama said the ban was rooted in “fear rather than fact,” and disease experts agreed, saying the prohibition had no basis in public health or science and only served to deepen the stigma and discrimination suffered by HIV-positive individuals.

“Good riddance to this discriminatory rule that had no basis in public health or sound science,” said HIVMA Outgoing Chair Arlene Bardeguez, MD, MPH, in a news release issued by HIVMA and the Center for Global Health Policy. “This long-overdue move brings the U.S. in line with current scientific and international standards of public health and will lessen the painful stigma and discrimination suffered by HIV-positive people.”

The travel ban served to undermine public health by discouraging people from determining or disclosing their HIV status. It also highlighted a troubling paradox in US policy. Even as Washington took a leading role in combating the AIDS epidemic globally, the US kept in place a policy that prevented international HIV/AIDS activists and researchers from coming to here. Indeed, no major international AIDS conference has been held in the US in nearly two decades because of the ban.

“If we want to be the global leader in combating H.I.V./AIDS, we need to act like it,” Mr. Obama said at the White House on Friday, during a signing ceremony for the Ryan White H.I.V./AIDS Treatment Extension Act.

Overturning the ban puts HIV-positive people on a level playing field with any other foreigner wanting to visit or immigrate to the U.S.

“This move brings common sense to US policy and means that people from developing countries who  receive US funded-HIV treatment will finally be welcome here,” said Kenneth Mayer, Co-Chair of the Global Center’s Scientific Advisory Committee and professor at Brown University, where he directs the AIDS Program.

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