Obama Lifts Ban on Entry Into United States for HIV-Positive Travelers


Obama Lifts Ban on Entry Into United States for HIV-Positive Travelers

November 3, 2009

On October 30, President Obama announced the end of a 22-year ban on travel to the United States for people who are HIV-positive. Obama shared that the ban was "rooted in fear rather than fact." "If we want to be a global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama said in a New York Times article. "We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat."

The United States is one of roughly a dozen countries that prohibit people who are HIV-positive from entering the country. The ban was enacted in 1987 at a time when people feared that HIV could be transmitted by physical or respiratory contact, a fear that was never grounded in scientific or medical evidence according to public health officials. Because of the restriction, no major international conference on the AIDS epidemic has been held in the United States since 1990. Under the ban—which applied to both visiting tourists and people applying for U.S. citizenship—health authorities have been required to list HIV infection as a "communicable disease of public health significance." Now that the ban has been lifted, people applying to become residents of the United States will no longer be required to take an HIV test.

Building a world free of stigma and discrimination

AJWS president Ruth Messinger has taken a leading role in mobilizing religious leaders to work with the Obama administration and other global partners in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide. A member of the Steering Committee on the Interfaith Response to HIV/AIDS, convened by the ecumenical alliance of Great Britain, Messinger has propelled AJWS's commitment to social justice by helping to ensure that people living with HIV in the developing world and beyond are able to access medical care and live safe, dignified lives.

Beyond prevention and clinical treatment programs, AJWS is supporting grassroots organizations that are committed to reducing stigma, fear and discrimination in the HIV/AIDS community, so that people living with HIV are able to exercise their human rights and live with dignity.

Amana Association is an AJWS grassroots partner supporting people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Founded in 2005, Amana Association promotes the rights of HIV/AIDS-affected widows and vulnerable children in a region where high levels of stigma combined with rural poverty and profound neglect contribute to poor access to treatment and limited information about HIV/AIDS prevention.

In India, an organization called SAATHII mobilizes individuals and organizations to fight HIV/AIDS by disseminating information, engaging in advocacy, building capacity and providing support and treatment services. AJWS supports SAATHII's Orphan Care Program for HIV-infected children and their families in India's coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.

In El Salvador, Organization Asociación Salvadoreña de Derechos Humanos 'Entre Amigos' works to promote and defend human rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population and for people living with HIV/AIDS. Through community organizing and public advocacy, AJWS supports an initiative of Entre Amigos to fight discrimination and to promote access to health services for the LGBT population and people living with AIDS.

As the United States moves toward a more inclusive immigration and visitation policy, AJWS applauds the work of the Obama administration in lifting the discriminatory travel ban on those who are HIV-positive—a ban that has perpetuated a political climate of shame, stigma and hiding.

Learn more about AJWS's grassroots partners doing HIV/AIDS work in Africa, Asia and the Americas.