President Obama announced the end of a twenty-two year HIV travel ban on visitors and immigrants entering the United States at a ceremony Friday and also reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act. The HIV travel ban, originally enacted in 1987, prohibits foreign nationals with HIV from obtaining visas for travel to the US and prevents them from becoming legal permanent residents.
In his remarks, President Obama described the original enactment of the ban 22 years ago as “a decision rooted in fear rather than fact,” and said that lifting the ban is both “another step towards ending [the] stigma” associated with HIV/AIDS and “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 United States is only one of twelve countries that bar HIV-positive people from entering the country, according to PBS. Reversal of the ban should go into effect early in 2010.
Reauthorization of the CARE Act means continued funding for programs that aide low-income individuals living with HIV and AIDS. President Obama described the CARE Act as evolving over the past 19 years “from an emergency response into a comprehensive national program for the care and support of Americans living with HIV/AIDS. It [currently] helps communities that are most severely affected by this epidemic and often least served by our health care system, including minority communities, the LGBT community, rural communities, and the homeless.”
According to a Human Rights Campaign press release, former President Bush signed a bill last year that removed the language of the travel ban from law and gave the Department of Health and Human Services regulatory authority concerning whether HIV should remain on the list of communicable diseases that bars travelers from entering the US.