The United States Senate has passed the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which also amends the Immigration Act to lift the ban on travel and immigration to the country by HIV positive non-citizens.

The International AIDS Society (IAS) has welcomed the announcement saying that repealing the entry and immigration ban was an important step in combating stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.  

‘€œIt also challenges other countries with discriminatory policies and laws restricting the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV to follow suit,’€ said IAS spokesperson Karen Bennett.

The IAS has opposed the ‘€œU.S. HIV-specific entry bar’€ in principle and practice since 1990.   The IAS does not hold its conferences in countries that restrict short term entry of people living with HIV/AIDS and/or require prospective HIV-positive visitors to declare their HIV status on visa application forms or other documentation required for entry into the country.  

The International AIDS Conference, the largest biennial gathering of AIDS workers, has not been held in the United States for the past two decades.

The 17th International AIDS Conference, to be held next month, in Mexico City will gather more than 20 000 professionals from around the world leading the global response to HIV/AIDS.  

Conference delegates will hold several sessions that discuss the impact ‘€œtravel restrictions’€ have had on individuals, families, and on perpetuating HIV stigma and discrimination.   Currently, some 67 countries around the world have some sort of HIV-specific laws that restrict the entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV.  

IAS member experts in infectious disease and public health have long held that laws and policies barring the entry, stay or residence of HIV-positive people do not protect the public health and may in fact impede effective responses to HIV.

Such ‘€œtravel restrictions’€ prevent HIV- positive people from visiting relatives in other countries, doing business or studying abroad, migrating for work reasons, participating in international humanitarian and development efforts, serving in consular services, seeking or receiving asylum, attending conferences, vacationing, uniting with family members or adopting HIV positive children from abroad.

‘€œIAS is proud of its longstanding leadership and commitment to this issue. We congratulate the US Senate, and the many advocates from the fields of science, medicine, law, faith, and constituent groups most affected, who have long fought for the repeal of the HIV travel ban in the United States,’€ said IAS President Pedro Cahn.   ‘€œWe look forward to seeing this provision put into law as we move forward in the global movement to reduce the burden of HIV.’€

More information on countries with HIV entry, stay and residence restrictions, can be found at www.hivtravel.org

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