U.S. Officially Ends HIV Travel Ban

The White House today announced an end to a travel ban for HIV-infected travelers.

The Washington Post reports: “President Obama called the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals a decision ‘rooted in fear rather than fact’ and announced the end of the rule-making process lifting the ban. The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules, which have been under development more than a year. … The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.”

The ban, which has applied to travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, “was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.” Various efforts through the 1990s to overturn the regulatory ban failed. “The Senate finally voted to overturn the ban as part of approving legislation reauthorizing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2008, and President Bush signed it into law on July 30 of that year. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) led the process in the Senate” (Franke-Ruta, 10/30).

The Associated Press reports: “The U.S. has been one of about a dozen countries that bar entry to travelers based on their HIV status. Obama said it will be lifted just after the new year, after a waiting period of about 60 days” (Superville, 10/30). Meanwhile, Reuters notes: “The AIDS virus infects 33 million people globally and around a million in the United States” (Holland, 10/30).

ABC News: Also during the ceremony, the President signed the fourth reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act. “The President said the CARE Act is a crucial tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS” [and] “cited statistics that illustrate the pernicious effect of a disease that while less devastating than in decades past, still afflicts a large portion of the US population.” Obama also said: “AIDS may no longer be the leading killer of Americans ages 25 to 44, as it once was. But there are still 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 56,000 new infections occur every single year” (Martin, 10/30).

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