US and South Korea End HIV Travel Ban

As of January 1, the HIV travel bans instituted in the United States and South Korea were lifted. President Obama first announced the end of the twenty-two-year ban on visitors and immigrants entering the US in October. Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director, called the development “a victory for human rights on two sides of the globe.”

According to UNAIDS, there are HIV-specific travel restrictions impacting entry, stay, and/or residence in 57 countries. The HIV travel ban in the US, originally enacted in 1987, prohibited foreign nationals with HIV from obtaining visas for travel to the US and prevented them from becoming legal permanent residents.

The lifting of the travel ban has a number of consequences including lifting a mandatory HIV test for all applicants for immigration or asylum, ending forced geographic separation of some families, and allowing HIV-positive individuals to travel to the US for pleasure or academic purposes. The change also allows the US to host international AIDS conferences. According to AIDS Beacon, the 2012 International AIDS Conference is planned for Washington, DC.

Lisa Power, who is the head of policy at the UK-based HIV advocacy and charity group Terrence Higgins Trust, said “Removing the ban is long overdue and we congratulate the US government on seeing economic and medical sense…Blanket entry bans have no justification on public health grounds and only increase stigma. We hope other countries with similar bans in place will now remove them too,” reported PinkNews.

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.


UNAIDS 1/4/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/2/09; Human Rights Campaign Press Release 1/4/10; AIDS Beacon 1/5/10; PinkNews 1/4/10

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