31 October 2009 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated United States President Barack Obama for announcing that travel restrictions for people living with HIV from entering the country will be removed.
“I urge all other countries with such restrictions to take steps to remove them at the earliest,” Mr. Ban, who has made removing the stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV a personal issue, said.
Almost 60 nations impose some form of travel restrictions on people living with HIV.
Mr. Obama's announcement yesterday overturns a policy that had been in place since 1987, and it came as he signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, which has provided treatment and support services to people living with HIV since 1990.
The legislation is named after Ryan White, a teenage boy who became a nationally known figure in the US in the 1980s as he battled discrimination and ostracism after contracting HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. He died in 1990.
In a speech to the Global AIDS Conference last August, Mr. Ban said that travel restrictions on people living with HIV “should fill us all with shame.”
At his request, several nations, including his home country, the Republic of Korea, are finalizing the lifting of such restrictions, with other countries including China and Ukraine considering removing them as well.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has also welcomed Mr. Obama's move, stressing that “placing travel restrictions on people living with HIV has no public health justification.”
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), added, “it is also a violation of human rights.”
The new Ryan White programme, he said in a statement issued yesterday, is “an integral part of the global AIDS response and a gesture of the United States towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people within the United States living with HIV.”
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