This week, the United States began allowing HIV-positive individuals to enter the country for the first time in 22 years. This shameful policy prohibiting U.S. travel for people with HIV/AIDS was a throwback to the 1980s, when there was much fear-mongering about the disease and how it was spread. Thankfully, the Obama administration saw its way in October to lifting the travel ban, which has separated families and stood in the way of any large gatherings of AIDS researchers in this country.
President Obama said the policy had been "rooted in fear rather than fact.”
He said: "We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic - yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people with HIV from entering our own country."
Gay advocates had said the ban had led to painful separations in families and discouraged travelers and some foreigners already living in the United States from seeking HIV testing and care.
“The connection between immigration and HIV has frightened people away from testing and treatment,” Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, was quoted as saying in a story in the New York Times. She said lifting the ban would bring “a significant public health improvement.”
In the last decades, those of us with an interest in AIDS research and policy have had to travel to Mexico, Canada, Europe, Africa or Thailand to share ideas and learn the latest on this global epidemic. The United States is now planning to host the International AIDS Conference for the first time in 2012.