Happy New Year! With the ushering in of a new year marks the end of a 22-year-old policy that was not only discriminatory and homophobic, but detrimental to public health. Of course we're referencing the HIV/AIDS travel ban. Since 1987, people from foreign countries with HIV/AIDS were not allowed to enter the United States. It also prevented the United States from effectively hosting conferences on international HIV/AIDS, since people living with HIV/AIDS were just about universally excluded and stopped at their home airports.
But not anymore! In October of last year President Obama announced that he would lift the HIV travel ban. Although the move comes over 20 years too late, it marks the first step in sending an important notice to the world that the U.S. is moving in the direction of fighting this global epidemic without fighting the people who have HIV/AIDS.
When announcing the lifting of the ban last year, President Obama said the ban was "rooted in fear rather than fact." In moving to end the HIV travel ban, the U.S. can also move forward with plans to host a 2012 international conference on HIV/AIDS. Immigration Equality, a group that worked tirelessly to lobby the White House to overturn the HIV travel ban, said that the original ban was pointless, and an irresponsible move to deal with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s.
Last year the United States was only one of a dozen countries that still barred the entry of people with HIV. Physicians for Human Rights, which shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to ban landmines, described the policy change as "monumental."